The Papal Human Rights Discourse: The Difference Pope Francis Makes

Human Rights Quarterly, 2019

26 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2017 Last revised: 11 Apr 2019

See all articles by Jodok Troy

Jodok Troy

University of Innsbruck; Stanford University

Date Written: December 22, 2017


Religious actors and their political concepts are commonly assumed as conservative, static, and aligned with the private contemplative world. Popes, however, regularly stood out of this narrative. Analysing the papal human rights discourse, this article illustrates that religious ideas and configuration change in relation to macro-political developments. The article contextualizes the papal human rights discourse and contributes a hitherto neglected aspect to the debate on human rights and religion in the international realm. The research points out three key findings: (1) John Paul II dominates this discourse, which has gained traction since the end of the Second World War. (2) Although Francis takes an outsider role in the papal discourse, he does not differ in principle from the mainstream papal human rights discourse. (3) From the first evocation of human rights by a pope, there is a persistent trend stressing both individual and collective human rights. The results offer fertile ground to anticipate future papal political conduct on the grounds of the trajectory of the human rights discourse.

Keywords: Pope, Francis, Church, human rights, International Relations

Suggested Citation

Troy, Jodok, The Papal Human Rights Discourse: The Difference Pope Francis Makes (December 22, 2017). Human Rights Quarterly, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Jodok Troy (Contact Author)

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Universit├Ątsstra├če 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
+43(0)512.507.2849 (Fax)


Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States


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