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United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - States Parties Reports

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Annexes 1 - 5 to State Party Report [2014] UNCERDSPR 25; INT/CERD/ADR/VAT/17485 (4 September 2014)

Annexes : Sixteenth to twenty-third periodic reports of Holy See (CERD/C/VAT/16-23)

List of Annexes


Annex 1: Intervention by the Head of the Holy See Delegation at the Durban World Conference

against Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance............................................ 2

Annex 2: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, contribution to the World Conference against Racism,

Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance............................................................... 5

Annex 3: Intervention by the Head of the Holy See delegation to the United Nations organization on Racism,

Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance................................................................ 14

Annex 4: Intervention by the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Bureau and

Specialized Agencies at the Durban Review Conference.................................................................... 17

Annex 5: Homily of Pope Francis, visit to Lampedusa, Italy........................................................................... 20

Annex 1




Monday, 3 September 2001

Mr President,

The Delegation of the Holy See wishes in the first place to express its appreciation to the government and people of South Africa, the host country of this World Conference. South Africa is our host not just physically. Its own history, experience and hopes make it truly the host, and the the inspiration of the lofty ideals which inspire our work and our commitment.

The ethical foundations of a new world community

The Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance presents a significant challenge to the world community at the beginning of a new Millennium.

While the title of our Conference is formulated in negative terms, the challenge we face is a positive one. The fight against racial discrimination is above all about how we wish to structure the interaction of individuals and peoples at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium. Racism is a sin. It is fundamentally a lie, a concept deliberately invented to create division in humanity. This Conference must be about the truth: the truth concerning human dignity, the truth concerning the fundamental unity of the human family. This is a Conference about the ethical foundations of a new world community.

From an honest appraisal of the errors and practices of the past - and indeed, let it be said, of the present - we must together boldly seek a different future, in which each person and each people will be recognized and fostered in their unique dignity and in their inalienable rights.

Despite this contemporary period of unprecedented humanitarian and scientific progress, we have to admit that all too many dimensions of our world community are still marked by exclusion, division and crass inequality, with consequent dramatic human suffering. Nor can we forget that the recent past has witnessed actions aimed not only at exclusion but at the very extermination of entire peoples. The challenge of the new century is to ensure that this will never happen again, and to draw up, as it were, a new world map, one which registers not division or domination, but a fruitful interaction of peoples founded on equitable, just and fraternal relations in solidarity.

Individual and collective conversion of hearts

The Holy See recognizes the irreplaceable contribution which the United Nations family has made and is making in addressing inequality and exclusion in today’s world.

This Conference, however, will hopefully mark a new and significant step in the efforts of the community of nations. It begins to touch the most central and the deepest dimensions of what is needed to fight racial discrimination and to build a more just world. The Conference invites each of us, as individuals and as representatives of nations and peoples, to examine the sentiments that are in our own hearts. Without an individual and collective conversion of heart and attitude, the roots of hatred, intolerance and exclusion will not be eliminated, and racism will continue to raise its ugly head again and again in the next century as it has in the century that has just ended.

The preparatory work of the Conference has shown that this is not an easy process. It requires that we examine the reality of history, not in order to be trapped in the past, but to be able to begin honestly to construct a different future. Pope John Paul II has noted: "One cannot remain a prisoner of the past: individuals and peoples need a sort of “healing of memories” (cf. Message for World Peace Day, 1997, at 3). Evidently there can be no such healing without a vigorous recognition of the truth of historical realities. The healing of memory requires that we honestly appraise our personal, community and national history and admit those less noble aspects which have contributed to the marginalization of today, but in such a way as to reinforce our desire to make the era of globalization an era of encounter, inclusion and solidarity.

Migrants, refugees and their families

In its contribution to the preparatory work of this Conference, the Holy See has particularly stressed the situation of migrants, refugees and their families. Migration will be one of the typical characteristics of a globalized world. It can be a phenomenon which generates prosperity, helps reduce global inequalities and enhances encounter among peoples and cultures.

As the recent document which the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, published as a contribution to this Conference, notes, "increased human mobility demands more than ever an openness to others" (The Church and Racism, Contribution of the Holy See to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Vatican City, 2001, p.21). But today the migrant, especially one who comes from a different cultural background, can easily become the object of racial discrimination, of intolerance, of exploitation and of violence. In the case of undocumented migrants the person may not even have minimum redress with the appropriate authorities. The Conference must constitute a clear reaffirmation of the fundamental human rights of all migrants, regardless of their immigration status. It must indicate the broad lines for an effective national and international application of those rights. At the same time, the fight against racism will require an intensive and balanced programme of education concerning migration.

The fundamental role of education

A further theme which the Holy See has wished to stress particularly during this Conference is that of the fundamental role of education in the fight against racism. Such education must begin in the family. It is in the family that the child first understands the concept of the other. It is in the family that the other becomes truly a brother or sister. The family itself must be the first community of openness, welcome and solidarity. The family must be the first school in which the roots of racist behaviour are firmly rejected.

Education against racial intolerance must become a clear pillar of all dimensions of education, both in the school and in broader society. Such an education must address the ethical foundations which enhance the unity of the human family.

A special responsibility rests with those who have responsibility for the formation of public opinion. Mass media have a special responsibility to avoid any provocation of racism sentiments. All forms of racial stereotyping or efforts at inciting rejection or hatred though racial discrimination must be rejected right from their first appearance.

Human rights education must become a fundamental dimension of educational programmes, as well as in the professional formation of certain categories whose work can help prevent racial discrimination, such as mass media, or which have a special responsibility to protect victims, such as the judiciary or law enforcement officers.

The contribution and responsibility of religious communities

The Holy See has, finally, especially addressed the contribution and the responsibility of religious communities in the fight against racism. In speaking of this Conference some days ago, Pope John Paul II made an appeal to all believers, noting that we cannot truly call on God, the father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any person, created in the image of God (Address before the recital of The Angelus, at Castel Gandolfo, Sunday 26th August 2001, quoting from the Declaration of the Second Vatican Council Nostra aetate, n.5). Religion has all too often been exploited as a means to further deepen existing political, economic or social divisions. Religious leaders must recall that all religions by their nature appeal to the unity of the human race. True religious belief is absolutely incompatible with racist attitudes and racist practices. Recent experiences of inter-religious dialogue offer the hope of greater understanding among religions. In many recent conflicts, in fact, the unity shown by religious leaders has been a significant factor in preventing or reducing conflict and in fostering reconciliation.

Let us hope, Mr. President, that this United Nations Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will mark a historic moment, from which a culture of dialogue may assume a new relevance: dialogue among religions, dialogue among civilizations, dialogue among nations and within nations. May one of the fruits of the Conference be the beginnings of a new broad, international cooperation between governments, civil society, religious groups and the mass media, as well as farseeing and courageous individuals, to work together to help construct a vision of humankind, which truly lives in unity. This is, in fact, God’s design for the human family.

Annex 2




(Durban, 31 August - 7 September 2001)


1. In 1988, only slightly more than ten years ago, the Holy Father requested that the then Pontifical Commission "Iustitia et Pax" publish a detailed document entitled The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society. Since that time, the situation with regard to "Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance", the basic concerns of the next World Conference to be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August - 7 September, calls for further observations on the part of the Holy See. Therefore, on the occasion of this important Conference, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace decided to republish the document The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society, with the addition of an introductory update.

The increase of racism: between globalization and ethnic conflicts

2. Globalization, which was already under way in 1988, is accelerating at an ever-greater pace; countries, economies, cultures and ways of life are drawing closer together and becoming more universal and intermingled. The phenomenon of interdependence is evident in every area: political, economic, financial, social and cultural. Scientific discoveries and the development of communications technology have "shrunk" the planet considerably. The globalization now emerging manifests itself in various ways; for example, the impact of a political, economic or financial incident occurring unexpectedly in one country is felt by other countries as well, and the great problems or questions of our time are global in scale (immigration, the environment, food resources, etc.).

3. Paradoxically, at the same time disagreements are growing sharper, ethnic violence is increasing, the quest for group, ethnic or national identity is becoming more relentless as the stranger and those who are different are rejected, to such a degree that at times barbarous acts are committed against them. Thus the last ten years have been marked by ethnic or nationalistic wars which give rise to growing unease about the future. This paradox is well known and is explained in part by fear of a loss of identity in a world becoming planetary too rapidly, at the very time when inequalities are also increasing. But the paradox actually has many causes. It is clear that the fall of the Berlin Wall aroused resentments and nationalism which had been kept under a tight lid for years, that borders inherited from colonial times had too often failed to respect history and the identity of peoples, or that, in societies where the social fabric is disintegrating, solidarity is cruelly lacking (cf. Part II of the document published by the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society, cited henceforth as CR).

4. Therefore, given these tensions, the situation since 1988 with regard to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance has regrettably not improved; indeed it has perhaps deteriorated, at a time when the movement of peoples has continued to increase and the intermingling of cultures and multi-ethnicity have become "social facts". Hence the importance of the forthcoming World Conference on racism, an importance which the Holy See would like to emphasize.

It is right to rejoice at the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, but the racist massacres or the "ethnic cleansing" of recent years, often in a context of general destruction, show to what extremes hatred and the will to dominate others can lead people. Other situations that gravely compromise the equal dignity of every human person continue to exist. For example, while the law may have abolished slavery virtually everywhere, the practice still persists, notably in Africa among people of different ethnic groups, or under new forms elsewhere, with the cruel exploitation of children, prostitutes or illegal immigrants. In addition, it is necessary to denounce the evil persistence of anti-Semitic prejudice, which was the cause of the Jewish Holocaust in the last century (cf. CR, Part II, n. 15). A century, it should be recalled, that began and ended with planned massacres in the name of race.

The Catholic Church's unceasing appeal for a conversion of heart

5. Murder, wickedness, envy, pride and folly have their source in the human heart (cf. Mk 7,21), and it is at this point that the contribution of the Catholic Church, in its constant appeal for personal conversion, is most important and necessary (cf. CR, Part IV, n. 24). We must look first to the human heart; it is the heart that must be continually purified so that it is no longer governed by fear or the spirit of domination, but by openness to others, by fraternity and solidarity (cf. ibid.). This is a fundamental role of religions. Christians in particular have the responsibility to offer a teaching that stresses the dignity of every human being and the unity of the human race (cf. CR, Part III). If war or other terrible circumstances make others the enemy, the first and most radical Christian commandment is to love that enemy and to respond to evil with good. Efforts in recent years to impose greater and more effective penalties for racist actions and claims, both within States and internationally, especially through the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, have not succeeded in changing attitudes. These penal measures are necessary and important in order to punish those responsible for certain acts and as a collective demonstration of fundamental values, without which a society cannot hold together.

The Catholic Church's requests for pardon

6. The Christian should never make racist claims or indulge in racist or discriminatory behaviour, but sadly that has not always been the case in practice nor has it been so in history. In this regard, Pope John Paul II wanted to mark the Jubilee of the Year 2000 by requests for pardon made in the name of the Church, so that the Church's memory might be purified from all "forms of counter-witness and scandal" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 33) which have taken place in the past millennium (cf. International Theological Commission, Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past. In its recent conclusions forwarded to the Holy See the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD] notes: "The Committee welcomes the solemn request of His Holiness for pardon for past acts and omissions of the Church which may have encouraged and/or perpetuated discrimination against particular groups of people around the world" [Conclusions of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Holy See, 1 May 2001. CERD/C/304/Add. 89, 1 May 2001, n. 4]). There are situations where the evil done survives the person who has done it, through the consequences of certain actions, and can become a burden weighing on the conscience and memory of later generations. A purification of memory then becomes necessary. "Purifying memory means eliminating from personal and collective conscience all forms of resentment or violence left by the inheritance of the past, on the basis of a new and rigorous historical-theological judgement, which becomes the foundation for a renewed moral way of acting. This occurs whenever it becomes possible to attribute to past historical deeds a different quality, having a new and different effect on the present, in view of progress in reconciliation in truth, justice and charity among human beings and, in particular, between the Church and the different religious, cultural and civil communities with whom she is related" (cf. International Theological Commission, Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past).

7. In this context, during the Jubilee Year, a Solemn Mass was celebrated in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome on 12 March 2000, in the course of which special prayers confessing faults and requesting pardon were offered. Among the particular intentions, there were confessions for faults committed in relations with the people of Israel, as well as for actions contrary to love, peace, the rights of peoples, cultures and religions. After the confession of sins against the dignity of women and the unity of the human race, the Holy Father himself prayed in the following words: "Lord God, our Father, you created the human being, man and woman, in your image and likeness, and you willed the diversity of peoples within the unity of the human family. At times, however, the equality of your sons and daughters has not been acknowledged, and Christians have been guilty of attitudes of rejection and exclusion, consenting to acts of discrimination on the basis of racial and ethnic difference. Forgive us and grant us the grace to heal the wounds still present in your community on account of sin, so that we will all feel ourselves to be your sons and daughters" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 22 March 2000, p. 4). Having already asked pardon of the peoples of Africa for the slave trade (cf. Address to Intellectuals and University Students, Yaoundé [13 August 1985], 7: Insegnamenti VIII, 2 [1985], 370; also CR, Part I, n. 4. Pope John Paul II took up this theme again on his visit to Senegal, when he visited the "House of Slaves" on the island of Gorée on 22 February 1992; cf. Insegnamenti XV, 1 [1992], 390), the Pope wanted to make "an act of expiation" and ask pardon of the American Indians and of Africans deported as slaves (cf. Message to Afro-Americans, Santo Domingo [13 October 1992], 2: Insegnamenti XV, 2 [1992], 358; Address at the General Audience [21 October 1992], 3: Insegnamenti XV, 2 [1992], 399).

Pardon as the only path to national reconciliation

8. The request for pardon concerns the life of the Church first of all. It is still legitimate however to "hope that political leaders and peoples, especially those involved in tragic conflicts, fuelled by hatred and the memory of often ancient wounds, will be guided by the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation exemplified by the Church and will make every effort to resolve their differences through open and honest dialogue" (John Paul II, Address to the participants in the International Symposium on the Inquisition [31 October 1998], 5: L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 November 1998, p. 3). In fact, in recent years, in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe or Asia, at the end of international, inter-ethnic or civil wars, or with the fall of military or communist dictatorships, legislation has been passed in order to seek the truth and identify those responsible.

These laws have sought to re-establish national peace by offering amnesty under certain conditions. Thus "truth and reconciliation commissions" (as in South Africa) were established. As non-juridical institutions, their mandate is to cast light upon these troubled periods and to identify the people responsible for them, without however condemning them to penal sanctions. Experience shows that such institutions cannot succeed on their own; beyond the laws of amnesty, countries that have been destroyed and divided by serious conflicts must engage in a process of reconciliation.

Reconciliation has further demands: "No process of peace can ever begin unless an attitude of sincere forgiveness takes root in human hearts. When such forgiveness is lacking, wounds continue to fester, fuelling in the younger generation endless resentment, producing a desire for revenge and causing fresh destruction" (John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace 1997, n. 1). The Church is aware of the difficulty, the "folly" of this forgiveness, but does not see it as either a sign of weakness or cowardliness. Quite the contrary. The Church proclaims the way of pardon because of her unshakeable confidence in the infinite forgiveness of God.

9. Given this fundamental premise, the Church proposes concrete means of reconciliation, which must be realized at every level. The weight of history, with its litany of resentments, fears, suspicions between families, ethnic groups or populations must first be overcome. "One cannot remain a prisoner of the past: individuals and peoples need a sort of "healing of memories'" (ibid., n. 3). This will require especially a correct re-reading of each other's history (at the level of education, culture...), resisting all hasty and partisan judgements, in order to acquire a better knowledge and therefore acceptance of others.

10. This reconciliation will only be possible if the various religions, governments and the international community sincerely and actively opt for a "culture of peace", so that there is no more resort to arms in order to solve problems and there is an end to the growth of the arms industry and the sale of arms, etc. (cf. ibid., n. 4; See also the Holy Father's letter to the Bishops of El Salvador, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 6 September 1982, 7). The local Churches have an active role to play, notably through their messages of forgiveness and reconciliation (see in particular the Lenten Message of the Catholic Bishops of Rwanda 1992; their Pastoral Letters for Advent 1993 and Lent 1993; their Christmas and New Year Messages to Christians in 1994 and 1995; documents published in the Holy See's Report to CERD, CERD/C/338/Add. 11 [26 May 2000], pp. 79-86), but even more through their action on the ground. It is the task of governments and world or regional organizations to put in place solid structures "capable of withstanding the uncertainties of politics, thus guaranteeing to everyone freedom and security in every circumstance". (Message for World Day of Peace 1997, n. 4). All forms of mediation therefore should be encouraged. Existing structures must also be strengthened. In particular, the United Nations, which has done much in the area of maintaining and restoring peace, should benefit from means better adapted to the new missions entrusted to it. Yet structures and processes will not be enough to build a lasting peace, only the path of forgiveness will make this possible.

11. As an act of gratuitous love, forgiveness has its own demands: the evil which has been done must be acknowledged and, as far as possible, corrected (cf. ibid., n. 5). The primary demand is therefore respect for truth. Lying, untrustworthiness, corruption, and ideological or political manipulation make it impossible to restore peaceful social relations. Hence the importance of procedures which allow truth to be established. Such procedures are necessary but delicate, for the search for truth risks becoming a thirst for vengeance. Often as part of such a process governments grant "amnesty to those who have publicly admitted crimes committed during a period of turmoil.

Such an initiative can be judged favourably as an effort to promote good relations between groups previously opposed to one another" (ibid.). To the requirement of truth there must be added a second: justice. For "forgiveness neither eliminates or lessens the need for the reparation which justice requires, but seeks to reintegrate individuals and groups into society, and States into the community of Nations" (ibid.). Such justice must respect the fundamental dignity of the human person at all times.

12. From the legal point of view, all persons (individual or corporate) have a right to equitable reparation if personally and directly they have suffered injury (material or moral). The duty to make reparation must be fulfilled in an appropriate way. As far as possible, reparation should erase all the consequences of the illicit action and restore things to the way they would most probably be if that action had not occurred. When such a restoration is not possible, reparation should be made through compensation (equivalent reparation). This is the most common form of reparation, but the calculation of the compensation is often difficult. When compensation does not suffice to make reparation for a moral injury, moral reparation can be made, that is satisfaction. An example of this is the offering of an apology or expression of regret to the victim State by the State responsible for the wrong.

The Holy See is aware of the great difficulty that this "need for reparation" can pose when it becomes a demand for compensation. It is not the Church's task to propose a technical solution to so complex a problem (in this context, one could mention the Message of the Twelfth Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar [SECAM], dated 7 October 2000: "Not only should the rich nations cancel debts, but they should also agree to compensation for both the debt and the wrongs they have done to Africa" [n. 18]). But the Holy See wishes to emphasize that the need for reparation reinforces the obligation of giving substantial help to developing countries, an obligation weighing chiefly on the more developed countries. This is not only a moral obligation; it is also a requirement resulting from the right of each people to development. As Pope John Paul II has insisted: "Both peoples and individuals must enjoy the fundamental equality ... which is the basis of the right of all to share in the process of full development" (Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo rei socialis, n. 33).

The fundamental role of education in the struggle against racism and discrimination

13. The international community is aware that the roots of racism, discrimination and intolerance are found in prejudice and ignorance, which are first of all the fruits of sin, but also of faulty and inadequate education (cf. CR, Part IV, n. 28). To take a main theme of the Durban Conference, the role of education, understood as a "good practice to be promoted" in the struggle against these evils, is fundamental. In this regard too, the Catholic Church recalls her very extensive active role "on the ground", in educating and instructing young people of every confession and on every continent through many centuries. Faithful to her values, the Church educates at the service of every person and of the whole person (see for example, the address of Pope John Paul II to the President of Gabon, Libreville [17 February 1982], n. 5: Insegnamenti, V, 1 [1982], 569. See also the Holy See's Report to CERD, pp. 36-66. Detailed in the area of education, the Report gives many statistics and a series of very concrete examples of the Church's role in the field, notably in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel and the territories of the Palestinian Authority. In its Conclusions, CERD stresses positively this action of the Church: "The Committee expresses its appreciation for the role of the Catholic Church in promoting education, particularly in developing countries. The Committee further welcomes the opening up of Catholic schools to children from different religious creeds as well as the promotion of tolerance, peace and integration through education. The Committee notes with satisfaction that in many countries where the majority of the population is non-Christian, Catholic schools are places where children and young people of different faiths, cultures, social classes or ethnic backgrounds come into contact with each other" [n. 8]).

For, in the Church's view, "all people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons have an inalienable right to education. This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, ... and should be conducive to fraternal relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum educationis, n. 1).

14. From the material point of view, the Church encourages efforts of international cooperation aimed at helping the poorer nations "in a better instruction of youth with a view to the future" (John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps [11 January 1986], n. 8: Insegnamenti, IX, 1 [1986], 69-70). For "the illiterate is a starved spirit" (Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum progressio [26 March 1967], n. 35) and illiteracy is "a kind of daily slavery in a world that presupposes education" (John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace 1981, n. 3; see also his Address to the Brazilian Bishops of the North-Eastern region on the occasion of their ad limina Visit [30 September 1985], 4: Insegnamenti, VIII, 2 [1985], 815-816). In another context, Pope John Paul II explained that the prime role of culture is to educate the person. The grave crises currently affecting the educational system in more affluent societies show that "the work of a human being's education is not carried out only with the help of institutions, with the help of organizational and material means, however excellent they may be", and that an education which places efficiency and performance before all else is doomed to failure. Education is a matter of teaching the human being to become "ever more human", to "be more" rather than to "have more". Thus the human being learns to "be" "with others", but even more to be "for others". That is why "education is of fundamental importance for the formation of inter-personal and social relations" (John Paul II, Address to UNESCO [2 June 1980], n. 11: Insegnamenti III, 1 [1980], 1644).

15. As part of the general education process, to counteract racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance associated with it, there must be a specific effort to present - especially to the young - certain major values such as the unity of the human race, the dignity of every human being, the solidarity which binds together all the members of the human family. Equally important is an education in respect for human rights and, in this regard, mention should be made of the initiative launched by the United Nations Decade for Education in Human Rights (1995-2004). In addition to students in schools or universities, certain professions are in special need of a theoretical and practical formation in the area of human rights (government officials, lawyers, judges and law enforcement officers, but also teachers, social workers and journalists) (see especially the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action [25 June 1993], I 33, II, nn. 68-69). This is not to deny that education in human rights is a slow and complex process, especially when the country concerned has been through years of conflict and everything has to be rebuilt: administration, electoral system, police force, educational system, etc.

If peace cannot be attained without respect for human rights (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace, 1999), by the same token without education in human rights, peace and respect for others are impossible: "without education in moral values, in the people and with their leaders or future leaders, every construction of peace remains fragile; it is even doomed to failure, whatever be the cleverness of diplomats or the forces displayed. It is the duty of politicians, educators, families, and those in charge of the media to contribute to this formation. And the Church is always ready to make her contribution" (John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps [12 January 1985], n. 7: Insegnamenti VIII, 1 [1985], 66).

The role of the media in human rights education

16. In order to promote the culture of human rights, everyone has the duty to educate for peace; but the media have an important role in this area (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace 2000, n. 12). Given the prodigious and positive development of the means of social communication, the Church recalls that the responsibilities of the individuals using them have become still greater. In fact, serious risks are involved, not so much with regard to the techniques used as to the content of what is communicated. Those responsible for information must never forget their duties to society as a whole. The first of these concerns the common good, for "society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice and solidarity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494). In communicating information, therefore, the primary duty is truth (cf. Communicationis Socialis Praepositi, Communication et progrès, n. 34: AAS 63 [1971], 606); but a corollary of this is that the right to communicate the truth is not unconditional (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2488). This right must be guided by charity, because it is not an end in itself; the private life and reputation of people must be respected, as must the common good.

Moreover, public authorities have the important responsibility of guaranteeing this freedom within the framework of respect for the common good (On these points, cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication Inter mirifica, nn. 3-12). In particular, they should avoid letting serious prejudices enter society by the means of communication, and especially that they do not transmit racist and discriminatory messages, as sometimes happens, for example, through the Internet. In the world of today, the new information technologies have a great impact on the lives of individuals and peoples. This is a phenomenon which offers great possibilities, but which also has its dangers: "The fact that a few countries have a monopoly on these cultural "industries' and distribute their products to an ever growing public in every corner of the earth can be a powerful factor in undermining cultural distinctness. These products include and transmit implicit value-systems, and can therefore lead to a kind of dispossession and loss of cultural identity in those who receive them" (John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace 2001, n. 11).

The role of religions and of the Catholic Church in particular in human rights education

17. First and foremost, the Church insists on the irreplaceable role of religions, and of the Christian faith especially, in the area of education regarding human rights. At the Interreligious Assembly of 1999, Pope John Paul II declared: "The task before us ... is to promote a culture of dialogue. Individually and together, we must show that religious belief inspires peace, encourages solidarity, promotes justice and upholds liberty" (Address at the Closing Ceremony, Vatican City [28 October 1999]: L'Osservatore Romano English edition [3 November 1999], pp. 1-2. On interreligious dialogue, see the activities of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Holy See's Report to CERD, nn. 77 ff.). On another occasion, he stated to the German Bishops that "religious instruction ... can help to recognize clearly ... new emerging forms of idolatry ... such as nationalism and racism" (Address to a group of Bishops of Germany on the occasion of their ad limina Visit [4 December 1992], n. 7: Insegnamenti XV, 2 [1992], 812, quoted in the Report to CERD, n. 23). The Catholic Church in fact elaborates and teaches an important social doctrine focusing on the person and the person's rights at every stage of life and in every situation. The Church's moral teaching has two poles: the salvation of souls and respect for human dignity. In the year designated by the United Nations as the year of "dialogue between civilizations", it is good to remember that the basis of this dialogue is the existence of values common to all cultures. Pope John Paul II has written: "The different religions too can and ought to contribute decisively to this process. My many encounters with representatives of other religions - I recall especially the meeting in Assisi in 1986 and in Saint Peter's Square in 1999 - have made me more confident that mutual openness between the followers of the various religions can greatly serve the cause of peace and the common good of the human family" (John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace 2001, n. 16. See also the Message for World Day of Peace 1992: "Believers united in building peace").

Positive discrimination as a means of counteracting racism and forms of discrimination

18. Regarding "good practices to promote" and more especially what is called "positive discrimination" or "affirmative distinctions", it is well known that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, of 21 December 1965, envisages in Article 1, 4 the possibility of adopting special measures "for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights ... " (the Holy See ratified this Convention in 1969; see CR, Part IV, n. 30. See also the Holy See's Report to CERD, n. 4 k: "So far as the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination is concerned, the Holy See takes special pleasure in reiterating its support of the Convention as the Catholic Church considers it its duty to preach the equal dignity of all human beings, created by God in His image"). On this basis of "affirmative action", various countries have adopted legislation providing special protection notably for indigenous peoples and minorities. These voluntary measures are intended to ensure effective recognition of the equality of all, for example by facilitating access to bank loans for a particular category of the population. There are different systems of applying such measures: the many more or less obligatory provisions for affirmative action, the system of quotas imposing a fixed percentage of one or other group of people (in public employment, schools, universities, elections ...), etc.

19. The choice of this kind of policy remains controversial. There is a real risk that such measures will crystallize differences rather than foster social cohesion, that in the area of employment or political life, for example, there will be recruitment or election of individuals on the basis of their ethnic group rather than their competence, and finally that freedom of choice will be compromised. Those who support these voluntary policies reply that it is not enough to recognize equality - it has to be created. And in fact it cannot be denied that the weight of historical, social and cultural precedents requires at times positive action by States.

The Catholic Church is always keen to defend the reality of the concrete person, situated in history (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor hominis [4 March 1979], n. 13), and she calls for effective respect for human rights. These policies are legitimate to the extent that they respect the prudent reserve of Article 1, 4 of the 1965 Convention, which provides that these measures of positive discrimination must be temporary, that they ought not have the effect of maintaining different rights for different groups, and that they must not be kept in force once their objectives have been achieved.

The increased mobility of peoples demands more than ever an openness to others

20. The movement of peoples, as previously stated, has accelerated in recent years for various reasons, which are often dramatic (wars, forced displacement, natural disasters, etc.). As the number of foreigners grows, some people become alarmed and demand, for instance, "zero immigration" laws, or indulge in still more violent forms of behaviour (cf. CR, Part II, n. 14). The Catholic Church is aware of these problems (cf. CR, Part IV, n. 29), and has always paid special attention to refugees, migrants and expatriates. The Pope, for example, dedicates an annual message to migrants and refugees. On every occasion, he seeks to encourage everyone, and especially Christians, to be generous in their welcome, particularly through positive actions such as family reunification, and to recognize that immigrants bring with them the riches of their culture, history and traditions (see among others the Holy Father's Message for World Day of Migrants 1992 "To welcome the stranger with the joy of one who can recognize in him the face of Christ", Insegnamenti, XV, 2 [1992], 80-84. In its conclusions, CERD remarks: "The Committee notes with satisfaction that the laws and teachings of the Catholic Church promote tolerance, friendly co-existence and multiracial integration and that Pope John Paul II has, in a number of speeches, openly condemned all forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia manifested through racial tensions and conflicts around the world" [n. 4]. See also the activity of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, especially in the Holy See's Report to CERD, nn. 82 ff., see Note 16. In its conclusions CERD notes: "The Committee expresses its appreciation for the contributions made by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People through, inter alia, declarations and programmes of action to promote non-discrimination against refugees and migrants in various parts of the world. In this context, the Committee notes the efforts undertaken by the State party to promote the rights of the Roma populations" [n. 7]). The local Churches, especially through the Episcopal Conferences, have not hesitated to enter into public debate in order to condemn racism and foster openness to immigrants (see for example the Message of the French Episcopal Commission on Migration to immigrants in France, published at a time when the movement towards a policy of "zero immigration" was in full swing, Nous avons besoin de vous [20 May 1993]: Documentation catholique 2074 [1993], 569; the Message of the Japanese Bishops, Seeking the Kingdom of God which transcends differences of nationality, which addressed the increase of immigrants to Japan especially from poor countries and which encourages Christians to develop positive attitudes towards them. See also the documents published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S.A., such as Who are my brothers and sisters? A Catholic educational guide for understanding and welcoming immigrants and refugees, Washington, D. C., 1996, which is an educational programme for Catholic primary and secondary schools; and also Welcoming the stranger among us: unity in diversity, Washington, D. C., 2001).

New and dramatic forms of discrimination

21. Since 1988, two great global divides have grown deeper: the first is the ever more tragic phenomenon of poverty and social discrimination (cf. CR, Part II, n. 13), and the other, more recent and less widely condemned, concerns the unborn child (cf. CR, Part II, n. 16) as the subject of experimentation and technological intervention (through techniques of artificial procreation, the use of "superfluous embryos", so-called therapeutic cloning, etc.). Here there is a risk of a new form of racism, for the development of these techniques could lead to the creation of a "sub-category of human beings", destined basically for the convenience of certain others. This would be a new and terrible form of slavery. Regrettably, it cannot be denied that the temptation of eugenics is still latent, especially if powerful commercial interests exploit it. Governments and the scientific community must be very vigilant in this domain.


22. When he visited South Africa in 1995, Pope John Paul II stated that solidarity is "the only path forward, out of the complete moral bankruptcy of racial prejudice and ethnic animosity" (Homily at Germiston Racecourse, Johannesburg [17 September 1995], n. 4: Insegnamenti XVIII, 2 [1995], 581). Solidarity must be fostered among States, but also within every society where a process of de-humanization and the disintegration of the social fabric undeniably aggravates racist and xenophobic attitudes and behaviour. This negative process results in rejection of the weakest, be it the foreigner, the handicapped or the homeless. Solidarity must be based upon the unity of the human family, because all people, created in the image and likeness of God, have the same origin and are called to the same destiny (cf. CR, Part III, nn. 19-20). On this basis the contribution of religion remains irreplaceable, a contribution made by each believer who, freely adhering to faith, lives it out every day. Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion remain the premise, the principle and the foundation of every other freedom, human and civil, individual and communal.

Annex 3




Monday, 28 January 2002

Mr Chairman,

No one can deny that, today, the family of nations needs a concerted programme of action to address Racism. We need to explore new ways to foster, for the future, the harmonious coexistence and interaction of individuals and peoples, in full respect of each other's dignity, identity, history and tradition. We need a culture, to use the words of Pope John Paul II, "in which we recognize, in every man and woman, a brother and a sister with whom we can together walk the path of solidarity and peace". (Angelus, 26 August 2001). Our world needs to be reminded that humanity exists as a single human family, within which the concept of racial superiority has no place.

The Holy See worked together with the Delegations of so many countries to ensure that the "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" would produce the blueprint for such a programme. Particular thanks are due to the Government of South Africa that hosted and guided the Conference. The preparation of the Conference proved, however, more difficult than was imagined. Certain moments of the preparatory process were tense, certain expressions used were unfortunately inappropriate for a Conference that was to foster tolerance. This is to be regretted. The final results are the fruit of compromise, which may leave many unsatisfied.

It must be asked, therefore, why did the family of nations find it so difficult to address the question of racism? Why was it so difficult to address a complex of contemporary issues, which we all recognize as posing a threat to the maintenance of harmonious international relations? Why was it so difficult to address what we all recognize constitutes a clear offence against the fundamental dignity of persons, men and women, our brothers and sisters, created in the image of God?

These are questions that the family of nations must legitimately pose, because they say something about the state of international relations.

All this, Mr Chairman, must bring us back to what I said in my opening words: the family of nations needs a concerted programme of action to address the question of racism. It needs such a programme urgently and today. The task of launching this programme cannot be put off. We must begin now.

Perhaps, in our reflection on the Durban Conference, we should begin by asking another question: can the world do without the constructive contributions, the fruit in so many cases of our common endeavor, which are gathered together in the final documents of the Durban Conference? Can we leave them aside and leave addressing the question of racism and racial discrimination for another day?

The answer must be a clear no. The fight against racism is urgent. It must be explicit and direct. Too often in history, uncritical societies have stood by inactive as new signs of racism raised their head. If we are not alert, hatred and racial intolerance can reappear in any society, no matter how advanced it may consider itself.

My Delegation therefore urges all nations to take up without delay, individually and in collaboration with other States and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a clear programme to fight racism, using the many positive elements of the Durban documents.

Such a programme must begin at the level of national legislation and practice. The World Conference urged all States to ensure that "their legislation expressly and specifically prohibit racial discrimination and provide effective judicial remedies and redress" (Programme of Action, n.163). Such legislation must address in particular the situation of refugees and migrants, who are often victims of discrimination. It must address the situation of indigenous peoples. It must address minority groupings.

Legislation must be accompanied by education. Education on racial tolerance must be a normal part of the educational programmes for children at all levels. The family, the basic social unit of society, must be the first school of openness and acceptance of others. Government agencies may never justify racial profiling and the mass media must be alert to avoid any type of stereotyping of persons on a racial basis.

In particular, the Holy See would like to address the question of racism and religious intolerance, which is taken up on different occasions in the Durban documents.

The Durban Declaration requests that measures be taken to ensure that members of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities should not be denied the right to practice their religion. It recognized with deep concern "the emergence of hostile acts and violence against [certain] communities because of their religious beliefs and their racial and ethnic origin in various parts of the world that in particular limit their right to freely practice their belief'(n.59).

True religious belief is absolutely incompatible with racist attitude and racist practices. Pope John Paul II, before the Durban Conference, made an appeal in this sense to all believers, noting that we cannot truly call on God, the father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any person, created in God's image. Through their common belief in the dignity of every individual and in the unity of the human family, believers of all faiths can indeed bring strong leadership in fostering understanding and reconciliation among peoples.

In a world in which religion is often exploited as a means to deepen existing political, social or economic divisions, it is encouraging to note the growing number of initiatives, both at the local and on the international level, of dialogue among religions. Interreligious dialogue, today more than ever, is a vital element in fostering peace and understanding and in overcoming historical divisions and misunderstandings. Such dialogue can and should be a strong contribution to the fight against racism.

The Durban Declaration (n.8) recalls that religion, spirituality and belief play a central role in the lives of men and women and in the way they live and treat other persons. It stresses how religion contributes "to the promotion of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and to the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance".

Religion, above all, can be a strong force for that individual and collective conversion of hearts, without which hatred, intolerance and exclusion will never be eliminated. The fight against racism requires a concerted international programme. But the fight against racism begins in the heart of each of us, and in the collective historical memory of our communities. The fight against racism requires a personal change of heart. It requires that "healing of memories", that forgiveness for which Pope John Paul II called in his last Message for the World Day of Peace, when he said: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy".

We cannot go away from this Resumed Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Chairman, without giving new vigor to the fight against racism. We owe it to the victims of racism, we owe it to our people, and we owe it to humanity.

Annex 4




Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Mr. President,

Allow me to express my congratulations for your election and wish you, the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the entire Bureau success in leading this Conference to a positive conclusion.

Mr. President,

1. The Delegation of the Holy See shares in the aspiration of the international community to overcome all forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia in the awareness that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 1) and are united in one human family. In fact, a just international community is properly developed when the natural desire of human persons to relate to each other is not distorted by prejudice, fear of others or selfish interests that undermine the common good. In all its manifestations, racism makes the false claim that some human beings have less dignity and value than others; it thus infringes upon their fundamental equality as God’s children and it leads to the violation of the human rights of individuals and of entire groups of persons.

As party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to the common efforts of the United Nations and other relevant international organizations, the Holy See endeavours to assume fully its responsibility in accord with its proper mission. It is engaged in combating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in a spirit of cooperation. The Holy See actively participated in the Durban Conference of 2001 and, without hesitation, gave its moral support to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) in the full knowledge that combating racism is a necessary and indispensable prerequisite for the construction of governance, sustainable development, social justice, democracy and peace in the world.

2. Today globalization brings people together, but spatial and temporal proximity does not of itself create the conditions for constructive interaction and peaceful communion. In fact, racism persists: the stranger and those who are different too often are rejected to the point that barbarous acts are committed against them, including genocide and ethnic cleansing. Old forms of exploitation give way to new ones: women and children are trafficked in a contemporary form of slavery, irregular immigrants are abused, persons perceived to be or who in fact are different become, in disproportionate numbers, the victims of social and political exclusion, ghetto conditions and stereotyping. Girls are forced into unwanted marriages; Christians are jailed or killed because of their beliefs. Lack of solidarity, an increase fragmentation of social relations in our multicultural societies, spontaneous racism and xenophobia, social and racial discrimination, particularly regarding minorities and emarginated groups, and political exploitation of differences, are evident in everyday experience. The global impact of the current economic crisis affects, most of all, the vulnerable groups of society; this demonstrates how too often racism and poverty are inter-related in a destructive combination.

The Holy See is also alarmed by the still latent temptation of eugenics that can be fuelled by techniques of artificial procreation and the use of "superfluous embryos". The possibility of choosing the colour of the eyes or other physical characteristic of a child could lead to the creation of a "subcategory of human beings" or the elimination of human beings that do not fulfil the characteristics predetermined by a given society. Moreover, increased security concerns and the consequent introduction of excessive measures and practices have created a greater lack of confidence among people of different cultures and have exacerbated the irrational fear of foreigners. The legitimate fight against terrorism should never undermine the protection and promotion of human rights.

3. Building on progress already made, our Durban Review Conference can be the occasion to set aside mutual differences and mistrust; reject once more any theory of racial or ethnic superiority; and renew the international community’s commitment to the elimination of all expressions of racism as an ethical requirement of the common good, the attainment of which "is the sole reason of existence of civil authorities" (Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Peace on Earth) at national, regional and international levels. Sharing resources and best practices in the concerted effort to implement the recommendations of the DDPA to eradicate racism is to acknowledge the centrality of the human person and the equal dignity of all persons. Such a task is the duty and responsibility of everyone. It is a clear example that doing what is right pays a political dividend since it lays the foundation for a peaceful, productive and mutually enriching living together.

4. International covenants and declarations as well as national legislation are indispensable to create a public culture and to provide binding provisions capable of combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Without a change of heart, however, laws are not effective. It is the heart that must continually be purified so that it will no longer be governed by fear or the spirit of domination, but by openness to others, fraternity and solidarity. An irreplaceable role is played by education that shapes mentalities and helps to form consciences to embrace a more comprehensive view of reality and reject any form of racism and discrimination. Some educational systems should be reviewed so that every aspect of discrimination may be eliminated from teaching, textbooks, curricula and visual resources. The end-process of such education is not only the recognition of everyone as having equal human worth and the elimination of racist thinking and attitudes, but also the conviction that States and individuals must take the initiative and make themselves a neighbour to all. Informal and general education plays a crucial role as well. Media, therefore, should be accessible and free of racist and ideological control as this leads to discrimination and even violence against persons of different cultural and ethnic background. In this way, educational systems and media join the rest of society in upholding human dignity which only a collective action of all sectors of society can protect and promote. In such a context of mutual acceptance, the right of access to education on the part of racial, ethnic and religious minorities will be respected as a human right that ensures the cohesion of society with the contribution of everyone’s talents and capacities.

5. In the fight against racism, faith communities play a major part. The Catholic Church, for example, has not spared its best energies to strengthen its many scholastic institutions, to establish new ones, to be present in dangerous situations where human dignity is trampled upon and the local community is disrupted. In this vast educational network, it teaches how to live together and how to recognize that any form of racial prejudice and discrimination hurts the common dignity of every person created in the image of God and the development of a just and welcoming society. For this reason, it stresses that "individuals come to maturity through receptive openness to others and through generous self-giving to them... In this perspective, dialogue between cultures... emerges as an intrinsic demand of human nature itself, as well as of culture... Dialogue leads to a recognition of diversity and opens the mind to the mutual acceptance and genuine collaboration demanded by the human family's basic vocation to unity. As such, dialogue is a privileged means for building the civilization of love and peace.”( Pope John Paul II, Message for the Celebration of World’s Day of Peace, 2001, n. 10). The contribution of faith communities in combating racism and building a non-discriminatory society becomes more effective if there is a genuine respect of the right to freedom of religion as clearly enshrined in human rights instruments. Unfortunately discrimination does not spare religious minorities, a fact that increasingly concerns the international community. The response to this legitimate concern is the full implementation of religious freedom for individuals and their collective exercise of this basic human right. While the right to freedom of expression is not a license to insult the followers of any religion or stereotype their faith, existing mechanisms that provide legal accountability for incitement to racial and religious hatred should be used in the framework of human rights law to protect all believers and non-believers. National judicial systems should favour the practice of ‘reasonable accommodation’ of religious practices and should not be used to justify the failure to protect and promote the right to profess and freely practice one’s religion.

6. The challenges ahead of us demand more effective strategies in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. These are evils that corrode the social fabric of society and produce innumerable victims. The first step for a practical solution lies in an integral education that includes ethical and spiritual values which will favour the empowerment of vulnerable groups like refugees, migrants and people on the move, racial and cultural minorities, people prisoners of extreme poverty or who are ill and disabled, and girls and women still stigmatized as inferior in some societies where an irrational fear of differences prevent full participation in social life. Secondly, in order to achieve coherence among the various structures and mechanisms designed to counteract racial attitudes and behaviour, it is necessary to undertake a new examination aimed at making the various approaches more incisive and efficient. Thirdly, the universal ratification of major instruments against racism and discrimination, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, will signal the political will of the international community to fight all expressions of racism. Finally, there is no substitute for fair national legislation that explicitly condemns all forms of racism and discrimination and enables all citizens to participate publicly in the life of their country on the basis of equality in both duties and rights.

7. Therefore, the work of this Conference has taken a step forward in combating racism, the reason for most countries to stay and join efforts for an outcome that responds to the need of eliminating old and new manifestations of racism. The Conference, as an international forum for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, has unfortunately been used to utter extreme and offensive political positions that the Holy See deplores and rejects: they do not contribute to dialogue, they provoke unacceptable conflicts, and in no way can be approved or shared.

Mr. President,

8. Eight years ago the countries of the world engaged themselves in a global commitment to combat racism through the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action. This vision of change remains incomplete in its implementation, and so the journey must continue. Progress will be achieved through a renewed determination to translate into action the convictions reaffirmed at the present Conference "that all peoples and individuals constitute one human family, rich in diversity" and that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. Only then will the victims of racism be free and a common future of peace, ensured.

Annex 5


"Arena" sports camp, Salina Quarter

Monday, 8 July 2013

Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. That is how the headlines put it. When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart. So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated. Please, let it not be repeated! First, however, I want to say a word of heartfelt gratitude and encouragement to you, the people of Lampedusa and Linosa, and to the various associations, volunteers and security personnel who continue to attend to the needs of people journeying towards a better future. You are so few, and yet you offer an example of solidarity! Thank you! I also thank Archbishop Francesco Montenegro for all his help, his efforts and his close pastoral care. I offer a cordial greeting to Mayor Giusi Nicolini: thank you so much for what you have done and are doing. I also think with affection of those Muslim immigrants who this evening begin the fast of Ramadan, which I trust will bear abundant spiritual fruit. The Church is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families. To all of you: o’scià!

This morning, in the light of God’s word which has just been proclaimed, I wish to offer some thoughts meant to challenge people’s consciences and lead them to reflection and a concrete change of heart.

"Adam, where are you?" This is the first question which God asks man after his sin. "Adam, where are you?" Adam lost his bearings, his place in creation, because he thought he could be powerful, able to control everything, to be God. Harmony was lost; man erred and this error occurs over and over again also in relationships with others. "The other" is no longer a brother or sister to be loved, but simply someone who disturbs my life and my comfort. God asks a second question: "Cain, where is your brother?" The illusion of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God himself, leads to a whole series of errors, a chain of death, even to the spilling of a brother’s blood!

God’s two questions echo even today, as forcefully as ever! How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another! And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.

"Where is your brother?" His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God! Once again I thank you, the people of Lampedusa, for your solidarity. I recently listened to one of these brothers of ours. Before arriving here, he and the others were at the mercy of traffickers, people who exploit the poverty of others, people who live off the misery of others. How much these people have suffered! Some of them never made it here.

"Where is your brother?" Who is responsible for this blood? In Spanish literature we have a comedy of Lope de Vega which tells how the people of the town of Fuente Ovejuna kill their governor because he is a tyrant. They do it in such a way that no one knows who the actual killer is. So when the royal judge asks: "Who killed the governor?", they all reply: "Fuente Ovejuna, sir". Everybody and nobody! Today too, the question has to be asked: Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn’t me; I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: "Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?" Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: "poor soul...!", and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!

Here we can think of Manzoni’s character – "the Unnamed". The globalization of indifference makes us all "unnamed", responsible, yet nameless and faceless.

"Adam, where are you?" "Where is your brother?" These are the two questions which God asks at the dawn of human history, and which he also asks each man and woman in our own day, which he also asks us. But I would like us to ask a third question: "Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it?" Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families? We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – "suffering with" others: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the crying, the wailing, the great lamentation: "Rachel weeps for her children... because they are no more". Herod sowed death to protect his own comfort, his own soap bubble. And so it continues... Let us ask the Lord to remove the part of Herod that lurks in our hearts; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who in anonymity make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like this. "Has any one wept?" Today has anyone wept in our world?

Lord, in this liturgy, a penitential liturgy, we beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!

Today too, Lord, we hear you asking: "Adam, where are you?" "Where is the blood of your brother?"

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