Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, at a committee meeting on the issue of the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance in New York, said that religious beliefs and freedom are an enduring resource in the fight against terrorism and that attempts to secularize religious institutions undermine them and society as a whole.
The Archbishop, who defined religious freedom as "man's pursuit of the 'last things', those things that satisfy the deepest, inmost and unfettered longings of the human spirit," said that "religious beliefs and freedom ... should be considered as a positive value and not be manipulated or seen as a threat to peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance."
Archbishop Migliore said that "religious leaders have a special responsibility in dispelling any misuse or misrepresentation of religious beliefs and freedom. They have in their hands a powerful and enduring resource in the fight against terrorism; and they are called to create and spread a sensitivity which is religious, cultural and social, and which will never turn to acts of terror but will reject and condemn such acts as a profanation.”
“Similarly,” he continued, “public authorities, legislators, judges and administrators carry a grave and evident responsibility to favor peaceful coexistence between religious groups and to avail themselves of their collaboration in the construction of society."
"The attitude of those who would like to confine religious expression to the merely private sphere, ignores and denies the nature of authentic religious convictions," he said.
Believers should be allowed to "maintain appropriate charitable or humanitarian institutions, ... to work in the social, educational and humanitarian field, and to be at the same time religiously distinct, to act in harmony with their respective mission, and without having to disregard any religious commitments or moral values in providing a social good.
“Attempts to secularize or to interfere in the internal affairs of religious institutions would undermine their raison d'être as well as the very fabric of society," he said.
"The Holy See," concluded Archbishop Migliore, will continue to vigorously defend human dignity as well as "freedom of conscience and religious liberty, at both the individual and societal level."