December 18, 1998

Pope Urges Respect of Human Rights For Peace In New Millennium

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul II on Tuesday urged nations to fully respect human rights, saying it would assure a ``culture of peace'' in the new millennium.

``The new millennium is close at hand, and its approach has filled the hearts of many with hope for a more just and fraternal world,'' the pope said in message issued for the Roman Catholic church's World Day of Peace, which it marks Jan. 1.

``This is an aspiration which can, and indeed must, become reality.''

The pope recalled that 1998 marked the 50th anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the most comprehensive and widely recognized international standard for the protection of human rights.

``The culture of human rights cannot fail to be a culture of peace,'' he said. ``But when human rights are ignored or scorned, or when the pursuit of individual interests unjustly prevails over the common good, then the seeds of instability, rebellion and violence are inevitably sown.''

The message highlighted the right to life, including a reference to the church's condemnation of abortion.

``A genuine culture of life, just as it guarantees to the unborn the right to come into the world, in the same way protects the newly born, especially girls, from the crime of infanticide,'' the pope said.

He said the recent developments in the field of genetic engineering presented a ``profoundly disquieting challenge,'' that needed to be accompanied by ``careful ethical reflection.''

The pope also urged states to permit citizens to freely choose and practice their religion.

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