Catholic World News

Human rights are written in human nature, Pope reminds Pontifical Academy

May 04, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI offered a brief exposition of the Catholic understanding of human rights during a May 4 audience with members of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, who were completing their 15th plenary session in Rome. The Pope said that human rights "are inherent in the very nature of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God." Therefore human rights are not created by governments, but find their "origin in the very structure of man's being."

Nor are human rights a matter of religious faith, the Pope continued-- although faith confirms and strengthens one's recognition of those rights. The same fundamental truths about mankind are accessible to reason, and bind people of all faiths.

The Christian faith challenges believers to uphold human dignity, the Pope said, and calls for action to address the "flagrant contrast between the equal attribution of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those rights." He observed: "For Christians who regularly ask God to 'give us this day our daily bread.' it is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry."

The president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, who presided at the plenary meeting, is Mary Ann Glendon, the former US ambassador to the Holy See. Glendon has recently become the focal point of a keen controversy among American Catholics, declining the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame to protest the school's invitation to President Barak Obama to speak at the May commencement exercises.

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