- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2007

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI called on the world’s nations to champion peace and human rights and urged people to repudiate war and violence in his New Year’s address yesterday.

The pontiff, who wished tens of thousands of pilgrims crowded into St. Peter’s Square “peace and well-being” in 2007, prayed that people would develop a “sacred respect for every person and the firm repudiation of war and violence.”

“Today, there is a lot of talk about human rights but often it is forgotten that these need a stable foundation, not a relative one, not one subject to opinion,” the pope said during his blessing to the faithful.

“And this cannot be anything but the dignity of the person. Respect for this dignity starts with the recognition and the protection of the right to live and to freely profess one’s own religion.”

In his homily during the earlier New Year’s Day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope urged peace in the Holy Land.

“How can one not implore with insistent prayer that … the day of peace arrives as soon as possible, the day in which the conflict that has been going on for too much time is definitely resolved?” he said. “A peace accord, to be lasting, must be based on respect for the dignity and rights of every person.”

Benedict, dressed in white garments, urged the many ambassadors to the Holy See attending the Mass to “unite their efforts so that in God’s name, a world can be built in which the essential rights of man are respected by all.”

There is no justification, the pontiff added, for people to be treated at times “almost as if they were objects.”

Benedict, who led a prayer service in the basilica Sunday evening to give thanks for the blessings of 2006, occasionally looked tired during the 90-minute ceremony in which he prayed and gave Communion to some of the faithful.

He seemed to regain energy as he strode down the basilica’s long, central aisle and stopped to pat the heads of toddlers and kiss babies, including a newborn held in a woman’s arms.

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