Church Backs a Balanced Secularity, Says John Paul II

Observes That the Principle Belongs to Social Doctrine

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The principle of secularity is acceptable when it involves a well-understood separation of church and state, says John Paul II in a letter to the bishops of France.



The letter, sent for the 100th anniversary of the law that introduced the separation of the Church and state in France, was published Saturday by the Vatican press office.

In the letter, the Pope reviewed the history of relations between religion and public life in the past century and backed dialogue between civil and religious authorities in favor of the common good, while respecting the identity of each.

"The principle of secularity to which your country is extremely attached, if it is well understood, belongs also to the social doctrine of the Church," the Holy Father wrote in his letter.

"It reminds us of the need for a just separation of powers," acknowledged the Pope, citing the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Nos. 571-572.

That text echoes Christ's invitation "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."

"For its part, the non-confessional character of the state, which is the non-involvement of the civil power in the life of the Church and of the different religions, such as in the sphere of the spiritual, allows all the components of society to work together in the service of all and of the national community," John Paul II indicated.

Quoting the Second Vatican Council's pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes," the Pope recalled that "the Church does not have the vocation to manage temporal realities, as, in virtue of its task and competence, it is in no way confused with the political community and is not linked to any political system."

"But, at the same time, it is necessary that all work for the general interest and the common good," the Holy Father wrote.

"The political community and the Church, although with different entitlements, are at the service of the personal and social vocation of man," he stated. "They will carry out this service with that much more effectiveness, for the good of all, the more healthy and better is the cooperation between them."