VATICAN CITY - World peace can only be achieved if human rights are respected, Pope Benedict said in his first public speech of the year.
He stressed that there can be no excuse for treating people as objects.
Two days after the hanging of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - which the Vatican condemned as "tragic" - the Pope said yesterday that human rights must be put at the heart of the global struggle to end war.
"It is because every human individual, without distinction of race, culture or religion, is created in the image and likeness of God that he is filled with the same dignity of person," Benedict said in a sermon in St Peter's Basilica.
Quoting from his message last month marking the Church's World Day of Peace, Benedict said yesterday: "By respecting the person, peace is promoted."
He called on nations to work for a world in which "human rights are respected by all".
In his second New Year speech since he succeeded John Paul II, the 79-year-old pontiff used his sermon on world peace to single out the Middle East.
"How can we not turn our attention, once again, to the awful situation in the land where Jesus was born? How can we not implore, through persistent prayer, that the day of peace arrives in that region as soon as possible?" - Reuters