Wednesday, December 26, 2007

3 Years After Tsunami: Caritas Focuses on Preparedness

SUMATRA, Indonesia, DEC. 25, 2007 ( Three years after the deadly 2004 tsunami that hit Asia, Caritas Internationalis said the majority of its reconstruction projects are completed.

The Dec. 26, 2004, natural disaster killed more than 225,000 people in 11 countries when an ocean earthquake triggered a series of devastating sea waves along the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

The Caritas agency says its focus is now preparing coastal communities on how to respond should disaster strike again.

The agency's $485 million program -- planned to be spent over five years -- provided immediate relief, then went to building homes and restoring livelihoods. Two-thirds of the initial budget has been spent.

Caritas Secretary-General Lesley Anne Knight said: "Three years after the devastating tsunami, Caritas has helped tens of thousands of survivors reconstruct their homes and their lives.

"The scale of destruction across multiple countries was unprecedented. But it has been made possible because Caritas was on the ground before, during and after the emergency.

"We know that disaster preparedness can save thousands of lives. Caritas is now looking at how to prevent such major loss of lives in any future disaster by training communities in the best ways to respond."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holy See on a World Fit for Children

Holy See on a World Fit for Children
"The Opportunity to Pause and Assess Where We Stand Today"

NEW YORK, DEC. 17, 2007 ( Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave Thursday to the plenary session of the U.N. General Assembly on the follow-up of the 2002 Special Session on children.

* * *

Mr President,

This commemorative high-level plenary meeting gives us the opportunity to pause and assess where we stand today with respect to the commitment to create a world fit for children, made during the 2002 special session for children.

The Convention of the Rights of the Child remains the standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. It contains such fundamental principles as the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to the best health care and education possible.

Echoing the principles enshrined in the said Convention, the 2002 special session reaffirms the family as the basic unit of society, providing the best environment for children to acquire knowledge, cultivate good qualities and develop positive attitudes to become responsible citizens. It is, therefore, in everyone's interest to motivate parents to take personal responsibility in the education of their children and strengthen the family.

Acting on its perennial conviction that education lies at the heart of the development of every child, today the Catholic Church runs more than two hundred and fifty thousand schools in all continents, with three and a half million teachers educating forty-two million students. To help every child exercise the right to education, many of these schools are in some of the most challenging locations where otherwise children would be completely left behind, such as remote villages, deprived inner cities, conflict zones, refugee camps and waste dumping grounds.

Recognizing that chronic poverty remains the single biggest obstacle to meeting the needs of children, helping working children through education is key to empowering them to break the cycle of extreme poverty and raise awareness of their self-worth and dignity. Ways must be found to offer them free basic education and training, and integrate them into the formal educational system in every way possible.

The commitment of the Holy See in the area of protecting children and their families from the impact of HIV/AIDS is illustrated by the thousands of institutions engaged in the care and education of orphans, prevention and awareness campaigns, the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, basic health care and nutrition, the prevention of mother-to-child viral transmission, the fight against stigma, and the empowerment of peoples living with HIV/AIDS to be protagonists in the fight against the epidemic.

However, while continuing the focus on HIV/AIDS, we must enhance our health care policies on even more common killer diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

An even more fundamental challenge is the lack of access of children and mothers to basic health care and sanitation. As the Secretary-General recently stated, sanitation is one of the most overlooked and underserved basic human needs, and international efforts to deliver on this area have been "lackluster". Children are the first victims of such an "unacceptable situation". This neglect or lack of focus on basic health care is very costly, given that basic medical prevention is often one of the most cost effective and successful ways of improving the health and stability of society.

My delegation earnestly hopes that the commitments renewed or made in the course of this plenary are not mere declarations of good intentions or objectives for which to aspire, but steadfast commitments to uphold, so that a world truly fit for children can at last become a reality.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

World Day of Peace Message for 2008

Pope’s World Day of Peace Message for 2008: The Human Family, A Community of Peace. To read the entire text, go to:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Holy See on Migrant Workers

Holy See on Migrant Workers
"A Comprehensive Perspective Is Needed"

GENEVA, DEC. 7, 2007 ( Here is the address Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, gave at the 94th Council Session of the International Organization of Migration. The session was held Nov. 27-30 in Geneva.

* * *

Mr. President,

1. The diversity of population movements around the world has increasingly caught the attention of international organizations and States: temporary and permanent migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, trafficked women and men, multinational corporations transferred personnel. New categories emerge like internal and cross-borders' displaced people forced to move by the degradation of the environment, certain types of development projects and climate change.

The Delegation of the Holy See appreciates the strategic choice made by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to address the migratory phenomenon from "an integral and holistic perspective" while focusing on its specific mandate. While targeted responses render effective the protection and assistance due to all uprooted persons, a comprehensive perspective is needed. In fact, today's economic and political interdependence has shown that international migrations have become a structural component of modern societies.

In particular, the global labor market attracts workers from an ever wider range of countries, making the migration for work the largest segment of all population movements. People vote with their feet, searching to meet their aspirations for security and a decent life for themselves and their families.

2. Estimates now give more than 200 million persons in the world living and working in countries different than the one in which they were born or were citizens and the 90 million workers among them are almost three percent of the 3 billion strong labor force. The numbers, in a way, are the tip of the iceberg revealing the complexity of a phenomenon that affects countries of origin, transit and destination, laws and administrative regulations, cultural, religious and social modalities of coexistence. A cooperative approach to migrations becomes unavoidable and it should be inclusive of States, intergovernmental bodies, civil society.

Nongovernmental organizations and faith-communities in particular, with their ear to the ground and a geographically diversified experience, can provide insights and collaboration both in policy formation and in operational assistance. This Delegation appreciates as a positive development the formalized process for exchange of views and information on the part of the Heads of United Nations' agencies with responsibility for one or the other aspect of human mobility. But coherence among the various players seems still at an initial stage and it would be beneficial if some participation of representatives of migrants' organizations and interests would be included at all levels of policy development.

3. Migrant workers, skilled and unskilled, have taken central place in many current debates. This type of migration is looked at as a positive force for development of countries of origin, especially through the billions of dollars in remittances sent home by the migrants -- $167 billion sent to developing countries in 2005 -- as well for the economy of receiving countries.

In fact, for a growing number of countries, immigrants have become a necessity to compensate for the dwindling workforce and for their demographic deficit. But the pragmatic advantages accepted through the admission of migrants are on several occasions overshadowed by an ambivalent attitude that is manifest in media and public opinion that allow for stereotyping and negative generalizations of newcomers. Fairness in recognizing the contribution immigrants make can serve as a good base for their integration.

4. Two important dimensions of contemporary migrations are not adequately discussed and paid attention to in the formulation of policies: the victims of migration flows and the priority that persons have over the economy. The whole system of protection and of human rights is relegated to a secondary supporting role instead of serving as it was intended, as an assurance that the dignity of all human persons must take precedence.

Just a few days ago, 64 migrants drowned before the shores of Yemen, where the previous month another 66 desperate asylum seekers had died or were missing after being thrown overboard by traffickers. Some media report that about 500 persons have met their death this year in the dangerous enterprise of crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States. As many as 6,000 people have died or disappeared in 2006 alone just trying to cross the waters from the West coast of Africa to the Canary Islands. Unaccompanied children are found in these traumatic flows across seas and borders. New creative forms of prevention, of humanitarian assistance and protection mechanisms are called for.

5. An inclusive approach that takes into account all components of the migrants' journey: the decisions to emigrate and of how many immigrants to admit; the modalities of participation of various types of migrants in the host society; the role played by migrants in the economic development and in society; the migrants' entitlement to protection and the exercise of their rights, seems the appropriate way to proceed. Present political trends appear clear and slanted in the direction of responding to the more emotional and vocal demands of public opinion for control and integration. In the long run, however, a fair and effective solution will come from a comprehensive approach that embraces all policy components: the rights of the state and of the receiving community, of the migrants, and of the international common good.

A growing consensus supports the convenience of such an inclusive approach and the necessity to pay more attention to migrants themselves and not only to their economic role as temporary workforce or permanent settlers. International treaties and conventions that directly, or in a general way, include references to the rights of migrants have adopted the centrality of the human person as their supporting base. In a parallel way, the social teaching of the Catholic Church, and in fact that of all religious traditions, looks at migrants as human beings in the first place and then as citizens or guests, or as economic and cultural agents.

The ethical dimension in the discussion of migration results from a larger anthropological framework in which secular and religious people can find a common ground in order to address the inevitable tension between different principles. In the case of migrants, this tension appears in the moral obligations of governments to ensure the safety and well-being of their own populations and a more universal ethic that values the well-being of all mankind and of each person. In this sense, the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development could state: "Respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants was considered essential for reaping the full benefits of international migration."

Mr. President,

6. As the concerted effort to refine ways and means to manage the different aspects of human mobility moves forward, the Delegation of the Holy See considers it more urgent to muster the political will to ratify and implement the human rights' instruments already developed and to make them the foundation of a truly humane and comprehensive policy. Education can play a major role. Migrants, aware of their rights, can be more secure in offering their services and talents and the receiving community, well informed and respectful of these rights, will feel freer in extending its solidarity in order to build together a common future.

[Original text: English]

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pope's Address to Catholic NGOs

Pope's Address to Catholic NGOs
"Called to Take Part in Public Life in a Personal Capacity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2007 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving in audience participants in the Forum of Catholic-Inspired Nongovernmental Organizations.

* * *

Your Excellencies,
Representatives of the Holy See to International Organizations,
Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet all of you who are assembled in Rome to reflect on the contribution which Catholic-inspired Non-governmental Organizations can offer, in close collaboration with the Holy See, to the solution of the many problems and challenges associated with the various activities of the United Nations and other international and regional organizations. To each of you I offer a cordial welcome. In a particular way I thank the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, who has graciously interpreted your common sentiments, while at the same time informing me of the goals of your Forum. I also greet the young representative of the Non-governmental Organizations present.

Taking part in this important meeting are representatives of groups long associated with the presence and activity of the Catholic laity at the international level, along with members of other, more recent groups which have come into being as part of the current process of global integration. Also present are groups mainly committed to advocacy, and others chiefly concerned with the concrete management of cooperative projects promoting development. Some of your organizations are recognized by the Church as public and private associations of the lay faithful, others share in the charism of certain institutes of consecrated life, while still others enjoy only civil recognition and include non-Catholics and non-Christians among their members. All of you, however, have in common a passion for promoting human dignity. This same passion has constantly inspired the activity of the Holy See in the international community. The real reason for the present meeting, then, is to express gratitude and appreciation for what you are doing in active collaboration with the papal representatives to international organizations. In addition, this meeting seeks to foster a spirit of cooperation among your organizations and consequently the effectiveness of your common activity on behalf of the integral good of the human person and of all humanity.

This unity of purpose can only be achieved through a variety of roles and activities. The multilateral diplomacy of the Holy See, for the most part, strives to reaffirm the great fundamental principles of international life, since the Church’s specific contribution consists in helping "to form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly" ("Deus Caritas Est," 28). On the other hand, "the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful" -- and in the context of international life this includes Christian diplomats and members of Non-governmental Organizations -- who "are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity" and "to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility" (ibid., 29).

International cooperation between governments, which was already emerging at the end of the nineteenth century and which grew steadily throughout the last century despite the tragic disruption of two world wars, has significantly contributed towards the creation of a more just international order. In this regard, we can look with satisfaction to achievements such as the universal recognition of the juridical and political primacy of human rights, the adoption of shared goals regarding the full enjoyment of economic and social rights by all the earth’s inhabitants, the efforts being made to develop a just global economy and, more recently, the protection of the environment and the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

At the same time, international discussions often seem marked by a relativistic logic which would consider as the sole guarantee of peaceful coexistence between peoples a refusal to admit the truth about man and his dignity, to say nothing of the possibility of an ethics based on recognition of the natural moral law. This has led, in effect, to the imposition of a notion of law and politics which ultimately makes consensus between states -- a consensus conditioned at times by short-term interests or manipulated by ideological pressure -- the only real basis of international norms. The bitter fruits of this relativistic logic are sadly evident: we think, for example, of the attempt to consider as human rights the consequences of certain self-centred lifestyles; a lack of concern for the economic and social needs of the poorer nations; contempt for humanitarian law, and a selective defence of human rights. It is my hope that your study and reflection during these days will result in more effective ways of making the Church’s social doctrine better known and accepted on the international level. I encourage you, then, to counter relativism creatively by presenting the great truths about man’s innate dignity and the rights which are derived from that dignity. This in turn will contribute to the forging of a more adequate response to the many issues being discussed today in the international forum. Above all, it will help to advance specific initiatives marked by a spirit of solidarity and freedom.

What is needed, in fact, is a spirit of solidarity conducive for promoting as a body those ethical principles which, by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life, remain non-negotiable. A spirit of solidarity imbued with a strong sense of fraternal love leads to a better appreciation of the initiatives of others and a deeper desire to cooperate with them. Thanks to this spirit, one will always, whenever it is useful or necessary, work in collaboration either with the various non-governmental organizations or the representatives of the Holy See, with due respect for their differences of nature, institutional ends and methods of operation. On the other hand, an authentic spirit of freedom, lived in solidarity, will help the initiative of the members of non-governmental organization to create a broad gamut of new approaches and solutions with regard to those temporal affairs which God has left to the free and responsible judgement of every individual. When experienced in solidarity, legitimate pluralism and diversity will lead not to division and competition, but to ever greater effectiveness. The activities of your organizations will bear genuine fruit provided they remain faithful to the Church’s magisterium, anchored in communion with her pastors and above all with the successor of Peter, and meet in a spirit of prudent openness the challenges of the present moment.

Dear friends, I thank you once again for your presence today and for your dedicated efforts to advance the cause of justice and peace within the human family. Assuring you of a special remembrance in my prayers, I invoke upon you, and the organizations you represent, the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of the World. To you, your families and your associates, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

[Original text: English]

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