Holy See Defends Right to Convert

Says It's Part of Religious Freedom

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WARSAW, Poland, OCT. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org").- Religious freedom includes the right to change religion, and to receive or give catechesis, the Holy See affirms.



Monsignor Anthony Frontiero, an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, represented the Holy See at the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, on "Human Dimension Implementation" that took place Sept. 24-Oct. 5.

On Sept. 26, Monsignor Frontiero, speaking on the theme of religious liberty, said: "The Holy See reiterates its firm conviction that the dignity of the person and the very nature of the quest for God require that all people should be free from every constraint in the area of religion."

"[T]he Holy See stresses that the right to religious freedom ought to be part of the juridical order and recognized as a civil right," the monsignor continued.

"Unfortunately," he added, "however, such a vision of relations between states and religious organizations seems not always to be shared by all and the right to religious freedom is, as we have seen, being violated, 'even to the point that imparting catechesis, having it imparted, and receiving it become punishable offenses.

Monsignor Frontiero explained: "In his recent address to the Executive Committee of the Centrist Democratic International, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that the right to religious liberty is fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and inviolable.

"Moreover, the exercise of this freedom includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed not only legally, but also in daily practice.

"As we witness the varied religious reactions to the social problems of our day, there is evidence that the significant world religions, including Christianity, are promoting peace and justice as essential dimensions of their religious commitment."

The monsignor continued: "Men and women involved in these movements recognize an intrinsic connection between their religious faith and the active concern for the well-being of society.

"Religion will continue to serve as a meaningful, substantial and positive part in the quest for such a new future, especially if religions are delivered from their possible shortcomings and failures, and if they respect authentic aspirations."

"Religion," Monsignor Frontiero concluded, "in the service of peace, human rights and social justice will be effective to the extent that it embraces the Holy Spirit's inspiration to be faithful to its deepest values."