Dignity is not just a right for a select few human beings, stressed the Pope to European political leaders. Highlighting the need for the recognition of values, rights and duties of all people as Europe faces the future, he posed Christian principles as a solid foundation for action.
Marking 60 years since the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, Pope Benedict XVI hosted members of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly after the Wednesday's general audience.
Turning to the agenda of the council which aims to protect the most vulnerable through the promotion of human dignity, the Holy Father said that considering the diversity of society today, "it is imperative to develop the universal validity of these rights as well as their inviolability, inalienability and indivisibility."
Work for the protection of human dignity must be carried out for the benefit of all peoples, the Pope observed, as he also highlighted the risks of relativism poses for values, rights and duties. These three elements, he explained, "are rooted in the natural dignity of each person, something which is accessible to human reasoning."
In this regard, he observed, "(t)he Christian faith does not impede, but favors this search, and is an invitation to seek a supernatural basis for this dignity."
He expressed his own conviction that these principles, when "faithfully maintained," are "necessary conditions" to addressing the "decisive and urgent challenges" posed to the council today, especially as they pertain to the protection of life in all stages, marriage between one man and one woman, and the freedoms of religion and education.
In an interview with the Italian bishops' SIR news agency later on Wednesday, the Holy See's permanent observer to the Council of Europe, Msgr. Aldo Giordano, highlighted the Pope's statements in favor of human dignity and religious freedom. The Pope's words, he said, come at an important time, when "Europe is faced with some epoch-making challenges, especially that of rethinking its role, its responsibilities and its contribution in the world today."