Vatican Aide Notes 2 Reasons for Hope

Hails U.N. Death Penalty Moratorium and Sarkozy Proposal

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The U.N. moratorium on the death penalty and the French president's proposal for a "positive laicism" are two reasons for hope this Christmas season, according to a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, highlighted these two events on the Vatican Television weekly "Octava Dies."

"At Christmastime we all desire and hope that positive new realities will arise," he explained. "The birth of Christ is the great new thing, but it does not eliminate the importance of other new things that come about.

"[The newness of Christ] allows us to understand the meaning [of these things] more profoundly and make them less ephemeral."

The Jesuit pointed to two events from last week, "new realities of the world -- not of the life of the Church in the strict sense -- but things in which the Church intensely participates."

Father Lombardi first mentioned the U.N. General Assembly's Tuesday approval of a moratorium on the death penalty.

"It is not something that means that the death penalty will disappear from the world or that the consensus is universal," he said. "But it is an important step toward the growth of a common consciousness of respect for life, of just awareness of the limits of human justice and of a more rehabilitative than a vindictive understanding of punishment.

"The Catholic Church, which fights courageously against abortion and euthanasia, also commits itself with constancy to the removal of the death penalty from the world."

Father Lombardi then mentioned French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Thursday speech at the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The president said he is calling for "a positive laicism, that is to say, a laicism that watches over freedom of thought, of belief and unbelief, does not consider religion as a danger, but as an asset."

Father Lombardi mentioned this proposal, saying a second reason for hope this season "is the clarity with which French President Sarkozy recognized the importance of the Christian roots of his country and proposed a new and positive vision of the secularity of the state in which the contribution of believers and of the Church is desired and sought as essential for common construction and also, and above all, for nourishing that hope without which the world becomes a desert."

These two events, the Vatican spokesman said, are "human hopes that -- as Benedict XVI teaches in his last encyclical -- the believer sees and lives in the light of the great Hope -- for the whole world, for all."