Vatican City, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of the Austrian alpine ski team. He pointed out to the athletes that sport requires virtue and that their example serves as a model to the young who are searching for meaning in life.
Speaking German, the Holy Father told them that "when sport is practiced in the right spirit, and with respect for dignity, it helps to promote the development of the person.
"Sport," he added, "helps man to consider his own capacities as a talent and his life as a gift of God. Even when sport is practiced at high levels, it is important to maintain an inner harmony between body and spirit in order not to reduce it to a mere search for results."
The Pope then went on to give a series of virtues "which must always characterize sporting activity: tenacity, a spirit of sacrifice, interior and exterior discipline, ... as well as a sense of justice, awareness of one's own limits and a respect for others. All virtues," he said, "for which you must train yourselves in daily life."
On the subject of sports men and women as a model for the young, Benedict XVI pointed out how, "in a period marked by a loss of values and a lack of orientation, athletes can provide powerful motivations to work in favor of good in the various areas of life, from the family to the workplace."
Le Mans, France, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - Like shepherds and Magi, the family of Holy Cross came from their mission fields in many countries to the nativity crèche of Father Basile Anthony Mary Moreau, CSC. There in his Bethlehem, called Laigne-en-Belin, he was also re-born in Christ; there the seed of his vocation as the founder of Holy Cross was planted in the rich soil of a profound faith in the power of the Cross, of a radical trust in Divine Providence and of a zealous love for the mission of Christ.
This seed grew to a mighty tree. Many of its branches were gathered in the plaza before the church of his Baptism on that Friday morning of September 14, 2007, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It was like a new Pentecost, a gathering of the nations, a new language of unity bonding together the women and men of Holy Cross: the laity—single and married; the religious—priests, brothers and sisters. Truly, it was the re-birth of a new family of Holy Cross.
The beatification celebration was launched with the ringing of the original bell engraved with the words, N.D. Sainte-Croix au Mans in 1842. In the early days it summoned the family of Holy Cross to daily prayer and work. On this September day its intonation echoed in all the church bells of the diocese of Le Mans. A commemorative placque was unveiled as the bishop of Le Mans, the pastor of the parish, the deputy mayors of Laigne-en-Belin and the leaders of the many branches of Holy Cross gathered around it. Representatives of the various nations came forward with their flags held high. All stood beneath a large globe of the world which hung from the arch above the church door. The internationality of Holy Cross was visibly experienced. A song of joy proclaimed our mission with Christ—the saving love of God and the word of God in our hearts offered with open arms to welcome the poor to a new life.
We returned to Le Mans for a prayer vigil in the Church of Notre-Dame de Sainte-Croix, the conventual church of the Holy Cross Family, built by Father Moreau. Before entering the church we passed through the courtyard of the former school which Father Moreau had established. Presently it serves as barracks and recruitment offices for the French military—a poignant reminder of the sacrifices our founder endured to promote a mission of a more noble and peace-filled purpose.
The prayer vigil, presided by Archbishop Andre Richard, CSC, the Archbishop of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, focused on the theme of a tiny, fragile seed which grew into “a mighty tree in the garden of the Church”—a symbol of the family of Holy Cross. A large tree branch holding a number of small sanctuary lamps was placed to the left of the main altar. A portrait of Father Moreau, with his loving and penetrating gaze, watched over the assembly. We thanked the Lord for the fruitfulness of Holy Cross—a work God cherished and realized in Father Moreau. A member of each congregation and a lay associate brought candles to surround the Moreau portrait. A priest, brother and sister placed the symbol of each group on a table—the cross, the medal and the heart. Four members of the Holy Cross Family brought forward the Constitutions.
In gesture, symbol, and prayer, the spirit of union and fruitfulness was experienced. The tiny seed of unity became a life-giving word—a community of brothers and sisters. The tiny seed of trust, planted in the rich earth of trust in Providence, survived much suffering and trials. The tiny seed for the mission became Good News to a world awaiting the Gospel. The “grain of wheat” fell into holy ground, died, and bore much fruit. There, in the heart of our home-church of Holy Cross, we were gathered as if to be planted anew to “grow in unity with ever-stronger bonds of love and service.” It was an experience of renewal—an invitation to one another to “glory in the Cross, our one and only hope.”
On Friday evening we experienced the sound and light production, La Nuit des Chimeres in the medieval section of Le Mans near the Cathedral of St. Julien. We walked the same paths and stairways Father Moreau frequented. The façade of the cathedral was illuminated in brilliant reds with angels dancing and playing their musical instruments. The ancient Roman walls came alive with moving images of medieval history, art, dance and music. This excursion into the past reminded us of the common historical heritage we share with Father Moreau.
Saturday morning provided an opportunity to visit the Solitude. Our pilgrim feet took us up a steep hill to the renovated buildings and grounds. We were greeted by a welcoming Marianite Sister who brought us to our true Source—the original chapel and tabernacle where Father Moreau sought consolation in his dark night of the spirit. The spirit of Father Moreau and Mother Mary of the Seven Dolors permeated the Solitude, not only in the original rooms, artifacts and relics but most particularly in the living charism evident in the gracious hospitality of the Marianite Sisters residing in that privileged place.
The liturgy for the Beatification of Father Moreau on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows was the peak experience of the entire pilgrimage. Around five thousand people gathered in the Centre Antares for the Mass. During the Rite of Beatification a short biography of Father Moreau was read followed by the formal petition and proclamation of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI proclaiming our founder: Blessed Basile-Antoine-Marie Moreau. His portrait was unveiled solemnly above the altar. His fatherly care and concern embraced all with a tender love. It was a moment of joy! The gift we have received in Father Moreau, was now a gift given to the entire church! The sense of internationality in the family of Holy Cross sprouted forth a new limb and branch of universality! His memorial will be celebrated everywhere throughout the world in liturgical prayer and intercession. All are invited to honor and imitate him.
The Paschal mystery of Christ and of Father Moreau was experienced in the liturgy. Like Mary, Father Moreau shared Jesus’ sufferings (Prayer) Like Judith, he was rewarded with blessings because he remained faithful to God (First Reading—Judith 13:20). Like Jesus, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Second Reading—Hebrews 5:8). He stood near the cross of Jesus (The Gospel—John 19:25). He gave his life for the family of Holy Cross—“This is my body which will be given up for you.” He made up in his life what was “lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” (Prayer after Communion).
We called to mind the suffering Father Moreau endured for us. We experienced his new life--a Resurrection. We shared in his glory and we are ready to greet him when he comes with Christ to gather the complete family of Holy Cross. The spirit of unity in Holy Cross was confirmed. We were “nourished by Christ’s body and blood, filled with his Holy Spirit, and became one body, one spirit in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer III).
In the afternoon a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated in the Cathedral of St. Julien, presided by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop emeritus of Washington, DC, The large portrait of our founder was slowly raised above the altar midway to the towering heights of the cathedral’s vault. His presence was felt. From the Mass of Basile Moreau we prayed: O God who in your ineffable providence chose your priest, Blessed Basile Moreau, to imitate the virtues of the Holy Family and respond to the needs of the Church; grant, we beseech you that, strengthened by his prayers and example, we may have the strength to confess boldly the Cross of Christ as our only hope.
Cardinal McCarrick urged the Holy Cross family to continue its mission throughout the world. We prayed: Sustain your Church and the Congregations of Holy Cross to fulfill their mission at the very heart of the Church. Through them you choose to reveal the riches of the Gospel to the poor. May they always speak to them as the privileged guests of your kingdom (Prayer after Communion).
The Cardinal’s last words to us were: “Pray for one another. Pray for one another.”
This pilgrimage was truly a grace for renewal. There was a sense of home-coming to our father’s house. It felt like a General Chapter of all the branches of Holy Cross presided by Blessed Basil Moreau himself. We could hear again his powerful preaching as if all his Circular Letters were crystallized in one homily. We met a great man, a Blessed, a Saint. We have the consolation of sharing in his charism. His unique response to the Gospel, his call to unity and transformation in Christ, his focus on the Holy Family as a model for unity, his conviction of the necessity of the Cross, his assurance of the Providence of God, his consuming zeal for the salvation of all—these and many others were the gifts that graced us. We could hear Blessed Basil Moreau commission us again: “Be what you are meant to be and we will vouch for the future.”
San Francisco, Calif., Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia legislators have been invited to participate in a conference on poverty at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. The event is co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco in a gathering to spotlight the UN Millennium Development Goals and to press for the U.S. to commit 0.7% of its gross national product to the global eradication of “the poverty that kills.”
Among those invited to this “Point Seven Conference” are Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Reps. Tom Lantos, Anna Eschoo and Lynn Woolsey --- well-known supporters of population-control, abortion, and same-sex marriage, and thus adversaries of the Catholic vision of human dignity and social justice. All of the invited legislators are Democrats, and all have received a 100% approval rating from NARAL-Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion national lobbying group, and from Planned Parenthood.
What are these Millennium Development Goals? Are they compatible with the Catholic Church’s view of the common good? And is St. Mary’s Cathedral providing a platform for pro-abortion politicians who are opponents of Catholic principles?
Austin Ruse, president of C-FAM (the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), says that the Millennium Development Goals are “largely non-controversial and commonsensical.”
Ruse, a key opponent of the pro-abortion, gay, and gender activists in the UN, told California Catholic Daily in a telephone interview that the Millennium Development Goals, supported by the Vatican delegation to the UN, focus on lifesaving projects that are both “desperately needed and actually do-able:” promoting primary education among the very poor, combating malaria, increasing access to clean water, and the like.
“Some agencies are pushing for a new ‘millennial goal’ on reproductive health, which in UN-speak means contraception, sterilization and abortion,” says Ruse, “but it came to a vote in 2005 and they lost. ‘Reproductive health’ in this sense is not a Millennial Goal, and isn’t likely to become one because this could only be changed by a vote of the UN General Assembly.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement “Catholics in Political Life” mandates that Catholic institutions should not give “those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” awards, honors or platforms “which would suggest support for their actions.”
California Catholic asked Ruse what he thought of dissenters like Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein being invited to the Cathedral conference. Said Ruse, “That depends. Are they the speakers, or the spoken-to?”
That’s the question California Catholic Daily posed to George Wesolek, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the main coordinator of the Point Seven Conference.
“We’re bringing in anti-poverty people from Africa and Asia such as Bridget Chisenga, HIV/AIDS specialist for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Zambia, and Marc D'Silva, CRS Country Representative for India,” said Wesolek.
But what about pro-abortion figures like Pelosi, Boxer, and Feinstein? “They’ve been invited to attend our ‘Town Hall.’ We want to speak to our legislators and challenge them on the eradication of extreme poverty,” said Wesolek. “We take the same position with U.S. politicians as the Vatican takes at UN: we are supportive of the MDGs, and we challenge as well as cooperate with those who partially share our vision. The political figures, in this case, are not being invited to expound to us, but to hear us out.”
Said Wesolek of what the politicians can expect at the conference, "We'll have clergy and laypeople goading them, I'm sure, on their consistency in upholding human dignity."
Wesolek said working with political figures who “partially share our vision” is challenging, “But we have to work with the legislators we have, not the ones we wish we had.”
The original story can be found at California Catholic Daily.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - At noon today the Pope received Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, and those who work with him. Benedict told them that the basilica should continue to be a place which is totally oriented to the glory of Christ and the unity of the Church.
The Holy Father recalled how the chapter of the papal basilica of St. Peter's dates back to 1053, "when Pope Leo IX confirmed on the archpriest and canons of St. Peter's, who had taken up residence in the monastery of Santo Stefano Maggiore, the possessions and privileges granted by his predecessors."
Since its creation in the 11th century, those who care for the ministries of St. Peter’s have participated in various fields of activity, liturgical, administrative, pastoral and charitable. "From the 11th century until today 11 Popes have been part of the Vatican chapter, and among them I particularly wish to recall those of the 20th century, Pius XI and Pius XII."
Benedict XVI then went on to tell his listeners what he expects of them and the value of their contribution. He asked the chapter to continue “to recall with your prayerful presence at the tomb of Peter that nothing must be put before God; that the Church is entirely oriented towards Him, towards His glory; that the primacy of Peter is at the service of the unity of the Church, and that this unity is in its turn, at the service of the salvific plans of the Most Holy Trinity."
The Pope closed by encouraging those who work at the basilica to keep it a place of prayer. "I put great trust in you and in your ministry, that St. Peter's Basilica may be a true place of prayer, adoration and praise for the Lord. In this sacred place, where every day thousands of pilgrims and tourists arrive from all over the world, more than elsewhere it is necessary that ... there should be a stable community of prayer guaranteeing a continuity with tradition and, at the same time, interceding for the intentions of the Pope in the Church and the world today."
Atlanta, Ga., Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - An amendment to the Georgia constitution that would protect life in all forms, from conception to natural death, is now before the state legislature for approval.
House resolution 536 requires a two-thirds vote of the Georgia House and the state Senate to appear on the popular ballot for the 2008 election. It has the support of both Democrats and Republicans.
Georgia Representative Martin Scott, the sponsor of the bill, explained: “The Human Life Amendment is the next logical step for defenders of liberty,” said Scott. “With advances in science such as cloning to our society’s movement toward a culture of death including euthanasia and endless abortions, Georgia is the place to enact this policy.”
“Georgia is a pro-life state,” Scott added. “I predict Georgians will overwhelmingly support this Constitutional protection if given the chance to vote.”
ProlifeUnity.com is organizing a rally in support of the measure. The rally will take place on January 14, 2008, the opening day of the Georgia legislature.
Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a national association of 600 priests and deacons, has issued a statement endorsing Archbishop Raymond Burke's position that clergy must deny Holy Communion to public figures who openly support abortion or euthanasia.
Part of the statement reads: "Archbishop Burke equally addresses politicians on both sides of the aisle. Whether Democrat, Republican or independent; executive, legislative or judicial branches; all public officials who publicly support, promote or give assistance to others to commit evil are cooperators in that evil."
Archbishop Burke, head of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, recently published an essay in a prominent canon law journal reiterating the duties of Catholics in public office to receive Holy Communion worthily. His essay further emphasized the duties of ministers of Holy Communion to ensure the Sacrament's worthy reception. He advised that clergy privately warn those potential communicants who are in manifest grave sin not to receive the Eucharist.
The confraternity's statement quoted a 2004 letter to American bishops from Pope Benedict XVI(then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger): "not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia." Therefore ""there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about war and the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia." His letter insisted that the minister of Holy Communion "must refuse to distribute it to a Catholic politician [who] consistently campaigns and votes for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws."
The statement alluded to the parable in Matthew 22 where a man is physically removed from a wedding banquet for not wearing a wedding garment. It continued: "the man was 'speechless' and Catholic politicians have no excuse, either. If they openly support abortion and/or euthanasia, even if 'personally opposed', they are in fact publicly unworthy to receive Holy Communion due to their cooperation in evil. Greater scandal is given when bishops, priests, and deacons do not protect the sanctity and dignity of the Most Blessed Sacrament by allowing public persons notoriously known for their positions which directly violate the Divine and Moral Laws."
The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy appealed to all bishops to support Archbishop Burke at the General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November.
San Diego, Calif., Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Diocese of San Diego is appealing to parishioners and priests to help pay for a recent $198.1 million dollar sexual abuse settlement, the Associated Press reports.
Bishop Robert Brom also issued a memo asking the diocese’s priests to contribute one month's salary, about $1,535 to a fund for abuse victims. "We cannot ask of others what we are unwilling to do ourselves," he wrote.
The donation requests will help "cover the expense involved in compassionate outreach to our brothers and sisters who suffered sexual abuse within the family of the church," the memo said.
The idea came from current priests who saw it as a gesture toward the 144 people who allege they were abused by clergy members and church workers when they were minors.
"It's a way of kind of righting some of the injustices done to them and also start the healing process," said the Rev. Ned Brockhaus of St. John of the Cross in Lemon Grove.
Judy Bethel, a Catholic San Diego resident, said that if Archbishop Brom hadn't sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the diocese in February, he could have settled the suits for less money. "I think he's asking us to bear the cost of his mistakes," Bethel said. "I, for one, am not willing to do this."
The San Diego diocese is to pay $107 million for the settlement. The rest will come from insurance and the Diocese of San Bernardino, which was once a part of the Diocese of San Diego.
, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is a sponsor to an initiative that includes support for legal abortion.
The initiative, titled "Deliver Now for Women and Children," was launched in New York last week by various United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. UNICEF has persistently denied that it supports abortion in any way, shape, or form.
The "Deliver Now" campaign's stated objective is the improvement of maternal and child health. It lists a number of severe maladies that affect maternal health, concluding “most maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to and could use professional care.” The campaign defines quality care as including “services before and during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, as well as safe abortion.” "Safe abortion" is often a synonym for legal abortion.
The accuracy of some information from the "Deliver Now" promotional materials has also been questioned. The campaign's website appears to conflate the total number of childhood deaths with the number of deaths women suffer from maternal causes. Though childhood mortality numbers are compiled from official sources, the data for maternal mortality statistics are often unavailable, unreliable, or poorly estimated and thus are a doubtful basis for policy.
Pro-family UN critics worry that the campaign's inclusion of legal abortion advocacy distracts from addressing major health risks to pregnant women in the developing world. Severe bleeding, ecclampsia, and obstructed labor can be remedied not by legal abortion but rather by the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to emergency obstetrics care.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The father of a handicapped young woman who underwent an abortion several days ago in the Argentinean city of Entre Rios is requesting custody of the aborted baby in order to provide him a Christian burial.
Attorney Mario Martinez, who represents the grandfather, told Canal Once television that the grandfather wants “to request the body of the baby because he wants him to have a Christian burial and not become an object that is discarded and thrown away. He is a person who has had a life and died an unjust and unworthy death, and therefore his grandfather wishes to bury him.”
Martinez has requested reports from the Ministry of Health and from regional officials in order to file a lawsuit in court.
He also commented on the release of the only suspect thus far in the rape of the young woman. A DNA test proved the suspect in question was not responsible for the crime. Martinez said he hoped police would find the man responsible for the rape and would bring him to justice.
“The pain is even greater because the unborn child, who together with the young woman was innocent, was prevented from being born,” Martinez stated.
, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers in Mexico, Armando Martinez, has sent a proposal to the Mexican Senate to reform the country’s Constitution in order to guarantee human rights for priests and religious, such as freedom of expression, which came into question during the recent debate on the legalization of abortion in Mexico City.
Speaking to reporters, Martinez said that Mexico should continue to be a secular state but one that respects the fundamental rights of religious, which are guaranteed by the Constitution.
The proposal compares the Mexican Constitution with those of twenty-five other countries, as well as with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination due to religious beliefs.
Although the proposal recognizes the advances that have been made in Mexico in the area of religious freedom, it stressed that constitutional reform would represent a test of the relations between the Holy See and the Mexican State, “so that the State would no longer consider the churches as competition that puts its sovereignty into question, but rather as partners in service to the people, most of whom are at the same time citizens of the State and members of a Church.
Rome, Italy, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard, said this week the Church’s vision of family and marriage is not “a merely confessional one and is not aimed only at Catholics. We bear a vision of the person and of marriage that applies to all mankind.”
Cardinal Ricard, who is also vice president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, made his comments during the Plenary Assembly of the Council which concluded Sunday in Fatima, Portugal.
“The first objective of any marriage and family ministry is to help couples and families be open to the gift of God and to embrace the evangelical vision of the couple and family life. It is the experience of being personally loved by God, of being forgiven and sustained by his own fidelity which is the bases of conjugal and family love,” the cardinal explained.
He noted that in Europe “the Church does much in the field of marriage preparation and support for couples, of psychological help for women considering abortion, and of support for widowers and the divorced. The testimony of couples themselves in this area is undeniable,” he said.
In speaking about preparation for the sacrament of marriage, the French cardinal emphasized that the formation of many young couples “who have little contact with the parish can be transformed into a place of initial evangelization, which makes it a much bigger investment than just preparing for a simple celebration.”
Cardinal Ricard also stressed that it is the “duty of the Church and of all Christians to promote and defend the true good of man, insist on the unity of the institution of the family, on its stability and fidelity, on the right of the child to have a father and a mother, on the rejection of euthanasia and abortion.”
“It’s not only about intervening publicly but also about forming consciences. Family ministry should have a missionary dimension. Christian families should give witness to the vision of man of which they are bearers and of the love which allows him to live,” the cardinal said.
He stressed that family ministry must be a priority in order to respond to the challenges of today’s world, such as the decrease in the number of marriages, the increase in number of non-married couples living together, divorce and the search “for creating the perfect child.”
He noted that such problems are in part a result of part of the population straying from the Christian faith and church membership, as well as because of the influence of homosexual lobbyists and their efforts to legalize adoption by gay couples.
Rome, Italy, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said this week, “The British government also realizes the economic and social costs of separation and divorce. This situation makes it necessary for a greater support for the family to emerge.”
Cardinal O’Connor made his comments during the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences in Fatima, which focused on the issue of the family. “This is not only about pragmatism but also about an awareness that is emerging in light of the costs and negative results that broken families have produced in British society,” he said.
He stressed the need to recognize that “the weakening of the family is one of the troubling signs of a decline in our culture. We should also keep in mind the suffering of the children of divorced or separated couples: just talking to the teachers is enough to realize this.”
The cardinal noted that greater support for the family is urgently needed from public institutions in order to address this situation. “In this effort the Catholic Church cannot help but be on the front lines with her specific proposals.”
Baghdad, Iraq, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The only Christian theology school in Iraq, Babel College, began its new school year in Ankawa this week with a Mass celebrated by Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Jacques Ishaq of Baghdad and Father Rayan Atto at the Church of Mar Eliya.
“We need optimism and courage” and “I am optimistic” about “the role that Babel College has and will have in the formation of Iraqi clergy,” Bishop Ishaq wrote in the Chaldean Catholic bulletin, Baghdadhope. Our task “is that of instructing, but also forming the future witnesses of Christ,” he said. Therefore, “I have invited the priests and bishops of all of the dioceses to take advantage of the presence of Babel College, as well as of the teachers and the cultural contribution that the faculty can provide.”
After Mass the guests toured the college facilities and new construction that is taking place on the campus, including a new hall, four new classrooms and a library.
“We already have six thousand books, a good number, but nothing compared to what is at the library in Baghdad,” Bishop Ishaq said. “These are books that we cannot recover because the college, seminary and convent of Dora are inaccessible” because they are located in an “extremely dangerous area,” but above all because “they are occupied by the American military which has turned them into a base.”
, Oct 8, 2007 (CNA) - The necessity of religious freedom and cooperation between religions were among several themes stressed by the Holy See's Secretary for the Relations with States in a Friday address to the Sixty-second session of the UN General Assembly.
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti's speech, titled "High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace," explored the influence of religion in the contemporary world. Archbishop Mamberti referenced the past gatherings of religious leaders at Assisi, which declared "violence and terrorism are incompatible with authentic religion."
The archbishop also quoted from Pope Benedict XVI's condemnation of religion "expressed in violence and intolerance" and the pope's endorsement of religious faithfulness that appeals to freedom and reason "while committed to peace and reconciliation."
Archbishop Mamberti denied an intrinsic connection between religion and violence, declaring "The use of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such, but to the cultural limitations in which religions are lived and develop in time." He criticized political manipulations of religious identity and nationalist exploitations of religious differences. He also condemned those violent protests of real injustices that used religion as a justification.
But despite these abuses, he said that positive action can direct religious efforts towards the good of society as a whole. Archbishop Mamberti praised the practices of spiritual discernment, asceticism, theological reflection, philosophical inquiry, and historical scholarship for channeling religious fervor and diminishing zealotry for the benefit and peace of whole societies. He stated "At a time when the so-called clash of civilizations is gaining currency in some quarters, religions have a special role to play in blazing new paths to peace,"
The archbishop made a vigorous defense of religious liberty, even claiming it would undermine the propaganda of terrorists: "Respect for religious liberty would unmask the pretense of some terrorists to justify their unjustifiable actions on religious grounds." He also said that religious freedom needs the support of both the state and religious groups. The archbishop voiced support for programs combating hate speech and the incitement of religious hatred.
Respect for religious minorities was emphasized, with an implicit allusion to the position of Christians in majority Muslim states. Mamberti insisted that religious minorities should "enjoy the same civil rights as the general population and members of the majority religion, e.g., for the construction and repair of places of worship." Christians often do not possess these rights in several Islamic countries, some of which are known for oppressive treatment of converts to Christianity and burdensome construction codes that hamper Christian church building.
The archbishop closed his address with an exhortation to forgiveness: "If religions want to build peace, they must teach forgiveness. In fact, there is no peace without justice, and there is no justice without forgiveness."