.- During opening ceremonies of the Continental Meeting “New Challenges for Human Rights,” Bishop Roberto Luckert Leon of Coro, Venezuela, and President of Caritas in that country, stated that the defense of human rights by the Church is unique from that of other organizations because the efforts of Catholics are based on the social teachings of the Church. During opening remarks for the gathering, the bishop underscored that “in its long and arduous task, Caritas of Venezuela has found a close partner for the problems it addresses and in the area of human rights.”
The bishop explained that “the concept of human rights has expanded the notion of citizenship, evolving from a strictly judicial or normative sphere to include rights of a social and environmental character, which have to do with access to prosperity and sustained development.”
Bishop Luckert warned, however, that “poor and vulnerable families and communities lack human, social and political capital. Therefore they have no voice. This lack of a means to make known their concerns, to be heard, and to participate in decision-making limits their access to the national democratic life and therefore, their capacity to exercise their political, social, economic, civil and cultural rights.”
Poor families such as these, explained the bishop, “cannot mobilize or organize themselves in order to demand changes that will benefit them. They have no way of participating in the formulation of public policies that will affect them. Their priorities are often ignored in the planning of public programs.”
“Considering poverty and isolation from the perspective of human rights,” he continued, “it is necessary to keep in mind the importance of advancing conditions that will allow all persons to overcome those obstacles which lead to discrimination and hinder access to basic services.” For this reason, the work of Caritas and other organizations of the Church “should be understood as an effort to restore in them their capacity to exercise their fundamental human rights,” and not as “a free gift from our institutions.”Human Rights and the Church
Bishop Luckert explained that “an important challenge for us in this area has been to try to make a clear distinction between the work which as the Church we carry out in the area of human rights and the work which other non-Christian groups are carrying out in this sense.”
“Our work in this area is based on the social teaching of the Church, which is our guide, and on the Gospel vision which inspires us. Therefore, our work in the field of human rights should be above any political motivation, which has for so many years limited the impact of the impartial, independent and humanitarian work which constitutes the true objective of all those who strive for the promotion of human rights.”
“We will continue in the struggle to restore civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights to those who have had them stripped away. We will continue providing a means of including those who have been excluded, and we will forge ahead in search of solutions that guarantee the life of dignity which all human beings deserve, because of their primary and intrinsic nature as children of God,” he concluded.