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Foto Sardi Martino , Recensione: Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace, Human Rights and the Pastoral Mission of the Church: World Congress on the Pastoral Promotion of Human Rights, Rome 1st-4th July 1998 , in Antonianum, 75/3 (2000) p. 592-594 .

The Vatican II, on the pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes states that the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the kingdom of their Father, and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds (GS, 1). The preoccupation of the Church towards the situation of humanity today is a manifestation that she has always a respect on human dignity. The mission of the Church is also to fullfil her duty to promote human rights in all situations of this world. The Code of Canon Law affirms: «to the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls» (can. 747, § 2).

For the anniversary of fiftieth of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed on 10 December 1948, The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, orgenised an international Congress on the pastoral promotion of Human Rights, gethered in Vatican City on 1-4 July 1998. From the enamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights up till now, the Church through the magisterium always promotes the importance of Human Rights. The science of Human Rights, has a new dimension in the theaching office of John Paul II. He introduces that the promotion of Human Rights must develope a culture of human rights for the life of human person today. In address to the participants of this congress the Pope said: «In considering man as ‘the primary and fundamental way for the Church’ (Redemptor Hominis, 14), I showed the significance of the ‘objective and inviolable rights of man’ (Ibid, 17), which in the midst of the trials and tribulations of our century have gradually been formulated at the international level, especially in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Subsequently, throughout my ministry as Pastor of universal Church, I have paid special attention to safeguarding and promoting the dignity of the person and of his rights in all the phases of his life and every political, social, economic or cultural circumstance. In the encyclical Redemptor Hominis, in analysing the tension between the signs of hope concerning the protection of human rights and the most painful signs of a state of menace for man, I questioned the relationship between the letter and the spirit of these rights (cf. n. 17). Still today one can note the gap that exists between the ‘letter’, as acknowledged in many international documents, and the ‘spirit’, currently very far from being respected. For our century is still marked by serious violations of fundamental righjts» (p.8).

So the pastoral promotion of human rights, as the theme of this congress indicates that the Church has a special attention for the humanity. The rights of human person is inviolable rights, so this fundamental rights must be promote and protect in all level and situation of this world.  For this reason there are double objectives, as John Paul II indicated, that the first objective of the pastoral promotion of human rights is therefore to see that the acceptance of the ‘letter’ of universal rights also entails their practical application in ‘spirit’,  everywhere and in the most effective way, starting with the truth about man and the equal dignity of every person, man and woman, created in God’s image and who has become a child of God in Christ... The pastoral promotion of human rights is therefore closedly connected to the mission of the Church herself in the modern world. The Church, in fact, can never abandon man, whose destiny is closely and indissolubly linked to Christ. And the second objective of the pastoral promotion of human rights consists in asking ‘the essential questions concerning man’s situation today and in the future’ (Redemptor Hominis, n.15), with objectivity, loyalty and a sense of responsability. In this regard, one can see that in our times the economic and social conditions in which people live assume particular importance. The persistance of extrem poverty, which contrasts with the opulence of a minority in a world marked by great humanistic and scientific breakthrougs, is a real scandal, one of these situations that sirioushinder the full exercise of human rights today (cf. p.8-9). Wwe can see how terrible of the situations of this world caused of the violations of the human rights. The international organizations as United Nations, Amnesty International, and some of the Non Goverment Organizations always denunce againts the violations of human rights. Human rights must be protected and promoted.

This little book is very rich information of the pastoral promotion of human rights today. Bisede the address of John Paul II, witness from the many parts of this world, there are two messages of this pope in the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (p. 63-65), and his message for the celebration of the World day of Peace, 1 January 1999 (p.66-79). This book enriched with an article written by Dr. Giorgio Filibeck, «The Human Rights in the Teaching of John Paul II: Their Basic and Principles» (p. 16-29), and Summary of Responses to the Questionnaire on Human Rights, by Msgr. Giampaolo Crealdi (p.30-41). Maybe it’s very sad that not more than fifty percents of national Episcopal Conferences in the catholic Church would not like to responded the actual and urgent question of human rights. «In the view of fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace judged it opportune to take a survey, by means of a questionnaire sent to the 118 national Episcopal Conferences throughout the world, gathering information on the pastoral activities of the local Churches in the area of human rights. Forty-seven responses were received and these have allowed the Council to update its knowledge of local Churches’s pastoral activity in the field of human rights and grasp certain problem and new aspects relative to this activity» (p.30). We can note that the pastoral promotion of human rights in the particular Church is very important to realise the mission of the Church itself today, but the national episcopal conferences were so indifferent regarding this questionnaire. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray in his address of this congress said: «we must admit that during the course of the last century the Church was sometimes silent concerning human rights;  she was not always able to engage in adewuate discerment when these rights were provlaimed as part of liberal or anti-religious agendas. We have heard people speak of rallying the Chuch to the cause of human rights, but it would be more accurate to speak of bringing human rights back to their home in the Church, for the Gospel is, as it were, the place of their birth» (p. 13). We hope that this millenium and in the future, the Church always be ready to respond the challanges regarding to the questions of human rights. We do hope also that the silence of the majority of the national episcopal conferences did not respond the questionnaire sent by Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace, is not a symbol of their indifferent attitude to the human rights today.

This book is a challange to ask again the national episcopal conferences to realise the pastoral promotion of human rights in their particular Church. Although they did not respond the questionnaire from the Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace, they should read the act of the world congress on pastoral promotion on human rights.

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