Dignity at the Heart of Pope Francis’ Message | The Center for Victims of Torture

Dignity at the Heart of Pope Francis’ Message

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This post is written by Annie Sovcik, director of CVT's Washington, D.C., office.

Earlier today, I had the honor of attending the White House reception for Pope Francis during his first visit to the United States. Beyond being a notable historic event, the opportunity to be a part of welcoming this particular pope, whose core messages of hope and dignity have deeply resonated with me as a human rights advocate, was a powerful and inspiring experience.

Just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) opens by enshrining “the inherent dignity” of human beings as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” Pope Francis regularly speaks of the importance of inclusion and the world’s thirst for peace. He has called for a solution to the Guantanamo Bay detention center, noting that “abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognizing…the principle of placing human dignity above all else.” He has firmly denounced torture, emphasized service to the poor, and made impassioned pleas in support of the protection of refugees and migrants. Recently, in response to the hundreds of thousands of refugees searching for safe haven in Europe, Pope Francis announced that Vatican parishes would be taking in two Syrian refugee families and urged religious communities throughout Europe to offer sanctuary to refugee and migrant families in need. In 2013, before the global refugee crisis was making the headlines it is today, Pope Francis visited the small Italian island of Lampedusa, which had received thousands of refugees and migrants and lamented the “global indifference” to their plight. According to UNHCR, Pope Francis called for a "reawakening of consciences" and denounced human traffickers who recklessly exploit migrants.

During his visit to the United States this week, Pope Francis is bringing with him an appeal for peace, charity and acceptance. At the White House this morning, he praised freedom as one of “America’s most precious possessions” and called upon the American people to “support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity…” As a human rights advocate—and a believer that the world must keep aspiring toward the ideals enshrined in the UDHR—it’s a welcome affirmation that dignity and hope are truly at the heart of Pope Francis’ message.

 

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