18-April-2008 -- Catholic News Agency |

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UN has duty to protect, but should not violate sovereignty, says Pope

New York, Apr 18, 2008 / 01:24 pm (CNA).- The UN has the duty to protect life, but this duty should not be seen as permission for the international body to violate a state’s sovereignty, Pope Benedict told the world leaders this morning in New York.

The role that the UN has taken on recently of running peacekeeping missions is one way in which it helps protect the innate dignity of every man and woman, the Holy Father explained.

This, however, does not take away the duty of States to protect their citizens. In fact, the Pope said that, “Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made.”

Only when “States are unable to guarantee such protection,” should the international community intervene, said the Pope.

While some nations view intervention by the UN as an affront to their sovereignty, Benedict said that as long as the organization obeys the “principles undergirding the international order”, then their actions “should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty.”

“On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage,” the Pope asserted.

“What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.”

“The principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ … has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom, Benedict XVI continued.

“The founding of the United Nations, as we know, coincided with the profound upheavals that humanity experienced when reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated,” the Pope said recalling the circumstances following the World Wars.

In a critique of past UN performance, Benedict said, “When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining "common ground", minimal in content and weak in its effect.”

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