Pope: Defend and Promote Right to Freedom

Message to Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

VATICAN CITY, May 4, 2011 (VIS) - Today was made public the Pope's message to Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and the members of that institution at the closure of their seventeenth plenary assembly held in Rome from 29 April to 3 May on the theme: "Universal Rights in a World of Diversity: The Case of Religious Freedom".

The Holy Father writes that the freedom of religion and of worship that suffered the "systematic denial by atheistic regimes of the twentieth century ... are again under threat from attitudes and ideologies which would impede free religious expression. Consequently, the challenge to defend and promote the right to freedom of religion and freedom of worship must be taken up once more in our days".

"Since man enjoys the capacity for a free personal choice in truth, and since God expects of man a free response to his call", he writes, "the right to religious freedom should be viewed as innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person, in keeping with the innate openness of the human heart to God. In fact, authentic freedom of religion will permit the human person to attain fulfillment and will thus contribute to the common good of society".

Benedict XVI emphasized that "every state has a sovereign right to promulgate its own legislation and will express different attitudes to religion in law. So it is that there are some states which allow broad religious freedom in our understanding of the term, while others restrict it for a variety of reasons, including mistrust for religion itself. The Holy See continues to appeal for the recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom on the part of all states, and calls on them to respect, and if need be protect, religious minorities who, though bound by a different faith from the majority around them, aspire to live with their fellow citizens peacefully and to participate fully in the civil and political life of the nation, to the benefit of all".

This afternoon, in the Holy See Press Office, the president of the academy, Mary Ann Glendon, summarized the plenary's acts of these days, which focused on four main areas. The first, she said was the "state coercion and persecution of religious believers"; the second, "state restrictions upon the religious liberties of religious minorities; third, "societal pressure on religious minorities that may or may not be state sanctioned, but nonetheless curtails the liberties of those minorities", and fourth, "the growth of secular fundamentalism in Western counties which considers religious believers a threat to secular, liberal democratic politics".

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