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 CNS Story:

POPE-DIPLOMATS Jan-8-2007 (710 words) xxxi

Pope to diplomats: Respect for rights, desires is only path to peace

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Condemning continuing bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, renewed fighting in Somalia and Sri Lanka and the ongoing holding of hostages in Colombia, Pope Benedict XVI said respect for the human rights and legitimate aspirations of peoples is the only path to peace.

"The Holy See will never tire of reiterating that armed solutions achieve nothing, as we saw in Lebanon last summer," the pope said Jan. 8 in his annual address to ambassadors serving at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict also condemned increased attacks on human life, particularly through abortion, and attempts to redefine marriage.

"It is by respecting the human person that peace can be promoted," he told the ambassadors and representatives from 175 countries.

"Yes, the future can be serene if we work together for humanity," the pope said. "Man, created in the image of God, has an incomparable dignity; man, who is so worthy of love in the eyes of his creator that God did not hesitate to give his own Son for him."

Pope Benedict told the ambassadors that in situations of tension and conflict, dialogue and negotiation hold the only hope for a lasting solution.

In the Middle East, he said, "it is no longer possible to be satisfied with partial or unilateral solutions," but it is time for negotiations aimed at involving each of the communities and finding a way to respond to their legitimate hopes.

"In particular, the Lebanese have a right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected; the Israelis have a right to live in peace in their state; the Palestinians have a right to a free and sovereign homeland," he said.

"When each of the peoples in the region sees that its expectations are taken into consideration and thus feels less threatened, then mutual trust can be strengthened," the pope said.

With the Iranian ambassador to the Holy See in attendance, Pope Benedict called on Iran to contribute to a growth of trust in the region by offering a "satisfactory response" to the international community's concerns over its nuclear program, cooperating with inspectors to prove the program is for civilian energy production and not weapons development.

In addition, the pope said, "dangerous sources of tension are lurking in the Korean peninsula" where North Korea's nuclear program is a concern.

The pope pleaded with the North Koreans not to do anything that would interrupt international negotiations, and he called on the international community not to use North Korean government actions as an excuse to interrupt humanitarian aid to the country's starving populations.

Pope Benedict said he was alarmed by continuing attacks on innocent human life, particularly through wider legalization of abortion, including such legalization in Africa, which has a traditional culture of respect for human life.

The pope said, "There is an attempt to trivialize abortion surreptitiously" through the Maputo Protocol on the rights of women in Africa.

The agreement, aimed at improving the condition of women in Africa and ending practices such as female genital mutilation, also calls for access to "safe abortion services."

Pope Benedict told the ambassadors there were signs of hope on the horizon, including the institution of the Council for Human Rights within the United Nations, which he said he hoped would focus especially on "the right to life and the right to religious freedom."

Looking at Africa, the pope said the world's richest countries must maintain their promises to devote 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product to international aid and they must take seriously their obligation to assist in peacekeeping and reconciliation efforts.

In Africa, he said, "peace is often fragile and even mocked."

Looking to Central and South America, the pope said economic indicators give reason for hope, as do efforts to fight drug trafficking and corruption.

In addition to his specific concern for ongoing conflict and kidnappings in Colombia, the pope spoke specifically of Cuba.

"In voicing the hope that all of its inhabitants may realize their legitimate aspirations, amid concern for the common good, I should like to renew the appeal made by my venerable predecessor (Pope John Paul II): 'Let Cuba open itself to the world and let the world open itself to Cuba.'"


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