During a Mass celebrated Sunday at the archdiocesan cathedral, the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal-designate Antonio Cañizares, said that reducing religious freedom to the exclusive realm of personal conscience is an error that leads to religion becoming merely a “private affair” and the Church, just another non-governmental organization.
The cardinal-designate also denounced the reinforcing of the tendency to “privatize” churches, especially the Catholic Church. This tendency, he explained, allows each person to adhere to his own faith as long as it is not expressed publicly.
The fundamental error, he continued, lies in the reduction of religious freedom to the exclusive realm of personal conscience, thus treating religion as a “private matter” and the Catholic Church as just another NGO.
Cardinal Cañizares also insisted on the need to respect the right to religious freedom in order for there to be a solid and integrated society based on peaceful coexistence. Anything that cuts off, prevents or compromises that freedom only disfigures and destroys society, he added.
Thus, the prelate stressed, full recognition of the true realm of religion “is completely vital” for a correct and fecund presence of the Church in society.
During his remarks the new cardinal also noted the contribution Christians have made to the peaceful transformation of authoritarian regimes to democracy through the promotion of religious freedom and other human rights.
Christianity, he said in closing, respects other beliefs and therefore “we demand the same respect for our own convictions,” as without respect for what “we consider to be most holy, there is no peace for us.”