ROME, January 7, 2013 ( – In his New Year address today to the members of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, Pope Benedict XVI called for governments to promote peace based on “the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights.

“Foremost” among which is “respect for human life at every stage”.

The pope praised the resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January last year that called for the prohibition of euthanasia. But, in a likely reference to the Republic of Ireland, he also expressed his “dismay” that, “in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion”.

“Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved.”

He warned politicians to be “vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both.”

He described as a “source of concern” the recent decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding in vitro fertilization, “which arbitrarily redefines the moment of conception and weakens the defence of unborn life”.

In his speech, Pope Benedict cast doubt on the possibility of achieving “an authentic dialogue” on the international scene without the pursuit of “an objective and transcendent truth”. Instead, he said, adherence to relativism as the “ultimate rule in human relationships” has made violence, “open or veiled,” “inevitable”.

“Indeed, without openness to the transcendent, human beings easily become prey to relativism and find it difficult to act justly and to work for peace,” the pope told members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. “It is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence.”

He also warned of a “baneful religious fanaticism” that grows out of ignorance of the true nature of God and that spawns violence, particularly against Christians, in the countries of the Middle East and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The pope said that in the West, there is a growing tendency to confuse the meaning of “human rights” and “their corresponding duties” with “exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual,” who are often “absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs”.

“To be authentic, the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in their personal and communitarian dimensions.”

Benedict also expressed his concerns that in some countries “peace in society is also put at risk by certain threats to religious liberty”.

Read the full text of the speech here.