John Paul II Says Healthy Pluralism Recognizes Contribution of Believers

Receives Parliamentarians of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Separation of church and state does not imply the rejection of the contribution of believers to society, says John Paul II.



The Pope made that point today when receiving in audience a delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly. He insisted, moreover, that the promotion of genuine religious freedom is an effective means to foster worldwide security and stability.

More than 300 delegates, representing 55 nations, are attending the OSCE assembly, including all the European countries, as well as the United States, Canada, Cyprus, Turkey and eight former Soviet republics.

The assembly, which has gathered the participants in the Vatican, is focusing on the topic "Freedom of Religion."

In this context, "it is important that, while respecting a healthy sense of the state's secular nature, the positive role of believers in public life should be recognized," the Holy Father said, reading his address in English.

"This corresponds, among other things, to the demands of a healthy pluralism and contributes to the building up of authentic democracy," he added.

"When states are disciplined and balanced in the expression of their secular nature, dialogue between the different social sectors is fostered and, consequently, transparent and frequent cooperation between civil and religious society is promoted, which benefits the common good," the Pope said.

"Just as damage is done to society when religion is relegated to the private sphere, so too are society and civil institutions impoverished when legislation -- in violation of religious freedom -- promotes religious indifference, relativism and religious syncretism, perhaps even justifying them by means of a mistaken understanding of tolerance," the Holy Father added.

"On the contrary, benefit accrues to all citizens when there is appreciation of the religious traditions in which every people is rooted and with which populations generally identify themselves in a particular way," he said.

"The promotion of religious freedom can also take place through provisions made for the different juridical disciplines of the various religions, provided that the identity and freedom of each religion is guaranteed," he said.

At present, "religious freedom is a strong deterrent to the violation of human rights on the part of communities that exploit religion for purposes that are foreign to it."

"On the other hand, the proper promotion of religion satisfies the aspirations of individuals and groups, transcending them and bringing them to a more perfect fulfillment," he stressed. "The respect of every expression of religious freedom is therefore seen to be a most effective means for guaranteeing security and stability within the family of peoples and nations in the 21st century."