08/11/2006, 00.00
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Respect the rights of the Lebanese, Israelis and Palestinians, says Vatican UN observer

The permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN Office in Geneva makes the plea today. Cardinal Etchegaray is set to travel to Lebanon as the "Pope's special envoy".

Geneva (AsiaNews) – The right of the Lebanese people to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, of the Israeli people to live in peace in their own state, and of the Palestinian people to have a free and sovereign homeland was reiterated today in a note by Mgr Silvano M. Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office in Geneva, addressed to the Human Rights Council.

The Vatican also announced today that Card Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will travel to Lebanon as "the Pope's special envoy" in what it described was an "essentially religious" visit.

In today's session of the Human Rights Council on the situation in Lebanon, Mgr Tomasi did not mince words: "Once again the violation of human rights [has] led to insecurity and conflict in Lebanon and in the Middle East Region in a vicious cycle that continues to disrupt peaceful coexistence. The Holy See is convinced that this vicious cycle can be broken if reason, good will, trust in others, implementation of commitments, and cooperation between responsible partners are allowed to prevail"

According to the representative of the Holy See, a "first step [. . .] requires an immediate cease-fire, first of all to help and protect the civilian population and their basic human rights."

Referring to the situation in the Lebanon, he said:  "The violence of these weeks is destroying a promising model of national conviviality, built over centuries, where a plurality of communities, even of very different religious convictions, learned that the only way to live in peace and security and to use their human resources and diversity in a creative way, is dialogue and close cooperation. The whole region could benefit by implementing this model in a successful way and thus open up a future of hope."

Furthermore he noted, the "Holy Father Benedict XVI, while reaffirming that peace is a gift from God, has repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire, for the opening of humanitarian corridors to bring help to the suffering populations whose human right to life, food, health, water, housing, is now a priority, and for a prompt start of reasonable and responsible negotiations to finally end objective situations of injustice existing in the region."

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us," he explained, "that peace is the basic condition for the respect and enjoyment of all human rights. In this context, the Lebanese people have a right to the integrity and sovereignty of their country; the Israeli people have a right to live in peace in their own State; and the Palestinian people have a right to have a free and sovereign homeland."

In a direct appeal to the international community to act, Mgr Tomasi stressed that before "the current drama in the Middle East, the international community cannot be indifferent or neutral. Solutions, however, cannot be improvised at the whim of conquest by either side. And may law never reach the point of sanctioning result obtained by force alone. That would be the ruin of civilization, the defeat of international law, and a fatal example for other areas in the region and, in fact, for the world."

In concluding his address he slammed the means used my terrorism. The "Holy See," he insisted, "is deeply convinced that no just and durable solution can be reached by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict and only dialogue is the way to peace and to the safeguard of human rights."

Prayers for peace in the region will be held simultaneously in Lebanon and the Holy Land on August 15.

The Vatican Press Office is reporting today that, if it is possible, Cardinal Etchegaray will celebrate mass on the Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, together with Card. Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites.

Mgr Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio in Israel and Palestine, and Mgr Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, will do likewise in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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