Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See's permanent observer mission to the United Nations, on Wednesday delivered remarks commemorating the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Saying that human rights find their source in natural reason common to all men, he praised the declaration's protection of religious freedom.
Congratulating the endurance of the declaration, Archbishop Migliore said that through it people can "rediscover the true significance of the person, his concrete humanity, the individual and communitarian dimensions of his rights, and in particular the universal value of human dignity."
He said the rights of the Declaration are not mere legal creations but "find their source and ends in ethics and natural reason common to all men."
The international protection of rights, the archbishop said, has helped avoid conflicts and has advanced "a united path consisting of cooperation and integration."
Archbishop Migliore referred to Pope Benedict XVI's April 18 remarks to the U.N., saying the pontiff "linked human rights and their protection to two fundamental objectives: the promotion of the common good and the safeguarding of human freedom."
The archbishop called the common good the "essential condition" for effective decision-making in security, development, and humanitarian action.
"The first violation of rights comes from the lack of essential living conditions, when there prevails an inequitable distribution of wealth, conditions of poverty, of hunger, lack of medical care," he continued, noting that the first of the UN's Millennium Goals is aimed at overcoming poverty and a shortage of basic necessities.
Protecting the various dimensions and manifestations of human freedom, Archbishop Migliore remarked, guarantees the building of the common good, overcoming the threats to the dignity of every person, and recognizes that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
However, he lamented the "negation of rights" that "violate the order of creation, contradict the sacred character of life, deprive the human person, the family, communities of their natural identity."
"Human rights express the unity of the human creature, of his aspiration at satisfying his essential needs while attaining at the same time freedom, human relations and spiritual values," he continued.
He especially noted that rights are an instrument through which a person "manifests his relationship with the truth, protects his conscience, his dimension of faith and his most profound convictions."
The Universal Declaration's content which addresses religious liberty, the archbishop said, provides a simultaneously individual and communitarian approach and "does not set the dimension of the citizen against that of the believer, recognizing instead the full freedom of the relationship between the person and his Creator."
No national or international law can cancel or limit this relationship, Archbishop Migliore insisted. "The free relationship between the person and his Creator, today as then, should not be limited to the exercise of religious belief, but open to the public expression of religious worship through the channels of formation, instruction and full participation in all decision making within a given country."
He then concluded by emphasizing how potent human rights had become in international thought.
"Human rights consist no longer in mere proclamations or legislative and institutional modifications," and are not a "rhetorical remembrance," but are "the result of the responsible deeds of everyone."
Such deeds are necessary in a world with adequate means to end hunger and poverty, to guarantee security, and to "safeguard the life of everyone in every moment."
"To celebrate this day means to place the person in the heart of the international Community and of its law and to overcome present obstacles on the path of humanity," Archbishop Migliore said.