Italian Cardinal Warns of "Religious Cleansing"
Bishops' Conference President Says Christian Persecution Is Increasing
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ROME, JAN. 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Anti-Christian persecution is increasing in some parts of the world such that it is taking on the form of a true "ethnic or religious cleansing," says the president of the Italian bishops' conference.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco stated this Monday when he opened the winter session of the permanent council of the Italian Episcopal Conference. The meeting is under way through Thursday.
The cardinal referred to the Jan. 1 bombing outside a Coptic Christian Church in Alexandria, Egypt, that took the lives of more than 20 Copts.
This, he said, "was probably the incident that public opinion could no longer pretend it didn't see."
The cardinal decried a "constant repetition of situations of persecution, which recently have been seen in several areas of the world, and have Christians as designated victims."
"For a long time [Christians] have been the religious group that must face the greatest number of persecutions because of their faith," Cardinal Bagnasco noted. "A crescendo of bloody incidents that in the course of months has involved India, Pakistan and the Philippines, Sudan and Nigeria, Eritrea and Somalia. However, the most serious events took place in Iraq and finally in Egypt."
The 2010 Report on Religious Liberty in the World, presented every two years by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need, reports that the number of persecuted Christians in the world is 200 million.
Most notable among the recent attacks against Christians include a Dec. 30 wave of 11 bomb attacks that killed two Christians and wounded 16 in Iraq; an Oct. 31 massacre at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, which that day claimed more than 50 lives; and the Jan. 1 bombing at the Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria.
Despite the diverse situations that form the background of these events, Cardinal Bagnasco reflected, the "the Middle East is certainly the region with the highest tension; there, Christianophobia, which is the most current version of religious intolerance, is not far from becoming now a form of ethnic or religious cleansing," despite the fact that "for centuries that land has been a laboratory of coexistence between different faiths and ethnic groups."
Mentioning Benedict XVI's message for the most recent World Day of Peace, the cardinal reminded that religious liberty is "an essential element of a constitutional state" and that "each person must be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances."
He again referenced the Holy Father's words to conclude that an arbitrary denial or limiting of such liberty "means to cultivate a reductive vision of the human person. To obscure the public role of religion means to generate an unjust society, because it is not proportioned to the true nature of the person."