In his most recent pastoral letter, the Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia said religious freedom is “the cornerstone of the building of human rights, which simultaneously entails the individual and the communitarian dimension.”
In his letter entitled, “The Religious Dimension and Healthy Secularism,” the cardinal underscored that “religious freedom develops a vision that manifests the unity of the person, distinguishing clearly even between the aspect of citizen and that of believer, within a healthy secularism.”
“Persons and society have the freedom to make good use or bad use of our religiosity, but a correct understanding of what God asks of the believer helps to build a society worthy of man and of his rights,” he added.
“Religious freedom, today, can be expressed with this axiom: it should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s own rights,” Cardinal Garcia-Gasco said.
“The rights associated with religion need protection, above all if they are seen to be in conflict with the predominant secular ideology or with the positions of naturally exclusive religious majority. To invoke religious freedom without protecting the rights of believers to act as such is to leave it as a mere rhetorical expression,” he emphasized.
“Religious freedom ceases to be such when it becomes a policy of ‘apartheid,’ of confining religious to the sacristy,” he said. “The full guarantee of religious freedom cannot be limited to the simple exercise of worship, but rather it must duly consider the public dimension of religion and, therefore, the possibility for believers to contribute to the building up of the social order,” the cardinal stated.
“In many areas of social life, believers become generously involved thorough a wide network of initiatives, which run from universities to schools, hospitals to charitable organizations at the service of the poor and the marginalized,” he added.