At the UN Pope Benedict XVI reflected on human rights in a way that might seem general, but that could instantly be made concrete. His reference to “global inequality” pointed to a world where nearly a thousand million people are chronically hungry and very many of them are starving. We find example after example around the globe to illustrate the pope’s observation about “grave and sustained violations of human rights.” His statement that “promoting human rights” is the most effective way for “increasing security” might be rephrased as: if you seek peace and security, work for justice and human rights. Too many governments still need to learn that human rights are “universal.” They should never do to others what they would not want done to themselves and their own citizens. On behalf of his entire community, Pope Benedict said that “the Catholic Church offers its services to build international relations.” In fact, Catholic organizations and individuals have been doing just that for many years. My hope is the Pope’s UN speech will encourage Catholics to set an even better example of building bridges and working for human rights everwhere.
— Gerald O’Collins, S.J. is professor emeritus of the Gregorian University in Rome.