HOUSING FOR ALL IS MEASURE OF CIVILIZATION
Pope John Paul II
Angelus Message 16 June 1996
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, to which I have directed my thoughts several times in recent Sundays, closed last Friday in Istanbul with a unanimous affirmation of the right to housing for every person with his family. This outcome is to be greeted with satisfaction. It raises the hope that this natural human aspiration, already protected by previous declarations and international commitments, will be more and more a focus of concern for all States.
It is not right for anyone still less for public authorities responsible for the common good to disregard the tragic situation of so many individuals and entire families forced to live on the street or to be content with inhospitable makeshift shelters. It is also sad that so many young people, because of the difficulty in finding housing, often due to the lack or uncertainty of work, must postpone their marriage for a long time or even forgo the starting of their own family. Therefore, may this renewed expression of the international ethical and juridical conscience enjoy success; as it confirms the right to housing for all, it also stresses the close connection of this right with the right to start a family and to have an adequately paid job.
2. On the threshold of the new millennium, these viewpoints must be considered the firm basis of a great strategy for reducing as much as possible the gap between rich and poor countries and for eliminating the inequalities in the higher-income nations themselves. The Istanbul Conference has forcefully brought to humanity's attention the need for an ever better harmonizing of development and economic progress with solidarity and concern for the less fortunate. I make a heartfelt appeal to the authorities of all countries to take this task firmly in hand and make it a priority in their political decisions.
Ensuring a suitable "habitat" for everyone is demanded by the respect owed to every human being and, therefore, is a measure of civilization and the condition for a peaceful, fraternal society. By virtue of his human dignity, every person must be guaranteed a lodging which offers not only physical shelter but a suitable place for satisfying his social, cultural and spiritual needs.
3. May the Blessed Virgin help all to overcome selfish temptations and to open their heart to the needs of their brothers and sisters. If States have precise duties in providing housing, much also depends on the sensitivity of private individuals. Moreover, how can political guidelines inspired by justice and solidarity be promoted, if these values are not woven into the fabric of society as a whole? I hope that everyone particularly those who appeal to the Gospel of Christ will develop a greater sensitivity to the concrete, urgent issue of the right to housing.
Weekly Edition in English
19 June 1996
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