Pope Benedict exhorted the UN this morning to focus more on promoting religious rights in its fight to promote human rights.
“Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious freedom,” he told the UN.
After pointing to the UN’s work to ensure “that public debate gives space to viewpoints inspired by a religious vision”, the Pope turned to how it should continue to promote religious freedom.
According to Benedict, a true view of religious freedom sees it as “inconceivable” that “believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.”
When a secular environment becomes hostile to religion, “the rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature,” he said.
Religious freedom cannot be only relegated to allowing people to worship as the wish, Benedict XVI said. Rather, it “has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order.”
Believers are able to contribute to society by their “generous involvement in a vast network of initiatives which extend from Universities, scientific institutions and schools to health care agencies and charitable organizations in the service of the poorest and most marginalized.”
“Refusal to recognize the contribution to society that is rooted in the religious dimension and in the quest for the Absolute – by its nature, expressing communion between persons – would effectively privilege an individualistic approach, and would fragment the unity of the person.”
“My presence at this Assembly,” the Pope said, “is a sign of esteem for the United Nations, and it is intended to express the hope that the Organization will increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family. It also demonstrates the willingness of the Catholic Church to offer her proper contribution to building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference.”
Continuing on the papal trip’s theme of hope, Benedict XVI turned to his encyclical “Spe Salvi”.
He explained that in his encyclical, he pointed to the passage where he wrote, ‘every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs’ (# 25). For Christians, this task is motivated by the hope drawn from the saving work of Jesus Christ.”