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Pope tells UN human rights key to solving world issues

[JURIST] Protecting human rights is vital to bridging inequalities between countries, Pope Benedict XVI [official profile] said Friday in a speech [text] to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the third day of his visit to the United States [official websites]. The Pope said:

Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective. Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples. This intuition was expressed as early as the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo, one of the masters of our intellectual heritage. He taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you "cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world" (De Doctrina Christiana, III, 14). Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon introduced the Pope in a speech [text] about the shared interests of the Catholic Church and the UN regarding issues such as poverty, nuclear proliferation, and the environment.

On Thursday, the Pope met privately with victims of clergy sexual abuse [JURIST news archive] in the Boston area. He first addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse when he arrived in the US on Tuesday, and raised it again in his homily during a Thursday mass at Nationals Stadium. AP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

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