Pope: Lack of Religious Freedom Is Unacceptable

Urges Peacemakers to Work for Liberty in God

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is stating that the lack of religious freedom in all manifestations is unacceptable. He is underlining this liberty as a necessity for building peace in the world.



The Pope stated this in a message released today for the 44th World Day of Peace. This day is observed every Jan. 1, which is also the Solemnity of the Mother of God. The theme for 2011 is "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace."

"At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith," the Pontiff noted.

He mentioned in particular recent attacks on Christians in Iraq, "which continues to be a theatre of violence and strife as it makes its way towards a future of stability and reconciliation."

"This situation is unacceptable," the Holy Father said, "since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity; furthermore, it is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development."

He affirmed: "It could be said that among the fundamental rights and freedoms rooted in the dignity of the person, religious freedom enjoys a special status.

"When religious freedom is acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root, and the ethos and institutions of peoples are strengthened."

The Pope noted that religious freedom is "an achievement of a sound political and juridical culture."

Essential

"It is an essential good," he added. "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."

"Religious freedom is not the exclusive patrimony of believers," the Pontiff stated, "but of the whole family of the earth's peoples."

"It is an essential element of a constitutional state," he said. "It cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone."

"While it favors the exercise of our most specifically human faculties, it creates the necessary premises for the attainment of an integral development which concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension," the Pontiff pointed out.

He warned that "the exploitation of religious freedom to disguise hidden interests, such as the subversion of the established order, the hoarding of resources or the grip on power of a single group, can cause enormous harm to societies."

"Fanaticism, fundamentalism and practices contrary to human dignity can never be justified, even less so in the name of religion," the Holy Father said.

He urged, "States and the various human communities must never forget that religious freedom is the condition for the pursuit of truth, and truth does not impose itself by violence but by the force of its own truth."

Benedict XVI stated, "A society that would violently impose or, on the contrary, reject religion is not only unjust to individuals and to God, but also to itself. God beckons humanity with a loving plan that, while engaging the whole person in his or her natural and spiritual dimensions, calls for a free and responsible answer which engages the whole heart and being, individual and communitarian."

Gift of God

"Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed," he affirmed.

"A society reconciled with God is closer to peace," the Pope stated, "which is not the mere absence of war or the result of military or economic supremacy, much less deceptive ploys or clever manipulation."

"Rather, peace is the result of a process of purification and of cultural, moral and spiritual elevation involving each individual and people, a process in which human dignity is fully respected," he said.

The Pontiff exhorted, "I invite all those who wish to be peacemakers, especially the young, to heed the voice speaking within their hearts and thus to find in God the stable point of reference for attaining authentic freedom, the inexhaustible force which can give the world a new direction and spirit, and overcome the mistakes of the past."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-31261?l=english