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Pope Paul VI: Excerpt from Message at the Synod "Human Rights and Reconciliation,"

Pope Paul VI

Message in Union with the Bishops Assembled at the Synod,

"Human Rights and Reconciliation"

October 23, 1974

[W]e desire by our words and actions to encourage those who work for human rights, to call upon those in authority to promote human rights, and to give hope to those who suffer violations of their rights. We call attention here to certain rights most threatened today.

The right to life: This right is basic and inalienable. It is grievously violated in our day by contraception, sterilization, abortion and euthanasia, by widespread torture, by acts of violence against innocent parties, and by the scourge of war, genocide, mass campaigns against the right to life. The arms race is an insanity which burdens the world and creates the conditions for even more massive destruction of life.

The right to eat: This right is directly linked to the right to life. Millions today face starvation. The nations and peoples of the world must make a concerted act of solidarity in the forthcoming United Nations Food Conference. We call upon governments to undergo a conversion in their attitude toward the victims of hunger, to respond to the imperatives of justice and reconciliation, and speedily to find the means of feeding those who are without food.

Socio-economic rights: Reconciliation is rooted in justice. Massive disparities of power and wealth in the world, and often within nations, are a grave obstacle to reconciliation. Concentration of economic power in the hands of a few nations and multinational groups, structural imbalances in trade relations and commodity prices, failure to balance economic growth with adequate distribution, both nationally and internationally, widespread unemployment and discriminatory employment practices, as well as patterns of global consumption of resources all require reform if reconciliation is to be possible.

Politico-cultural rights: Reconciliation in society and the rights of the person require that individuals have an effective role in shaping their own destinies. They have a right to participate in the political process freely and responsibly. They have a right to free access to information, freedom of speech and press, as well as freedom of dissent. They have a right to be educated and to determine the education of their children. Individuals and groups must be secure from arrest, torture and imprisonment for political or ideological reasons, and all in society. including migrant workers, must be guaranteed juridical protection of their personal, social, cultural and political rights. We condemn the denial or abridgement of rights because of race. We advocate that nations and contesting groups seek reconciliation by halting persecution of others and by granting amnesty, marked by mercy and equity, to political prisoners and exiles.

The right of religious liberty: This right uniquely reflects the dignity of the person as this is known from the Word of God and from reason itself. Today it is denied or restricted by diverse political systems in ways which impede worship, religious education and social ministry. We call upon all governments to acknowledge the right of religious liberty in words and foster it in deeds, to eliminate any type of discrimination, and to accord to all, regardless of their religious convictions, the full rights and opportunities of citizens. ( ... )


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