Vatican City, Feb 24, 2021 / 05:00 am
A robust understanding of the right to religious freedom is being eroded in the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican’s foreign minister said in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
“The Holy See would like to reiterate the urgency of protecting the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. In particular, religious belief, and the expression thereof, lies at the core of the dignity of the human person, in his or her conscience,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said on Feb. 23.
Gallagher, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, said that “the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that this robust understanding of religious freedom is being eroded.”
“The Holy See would like to stress that, as is recognized in numerous human rights instruments, the freedom of religion also protects its public witness and expression -- both individually and collectively, publicly and privately -- in forms of worship, observance and teaching,” he said.
Speaking at the high-level segment of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, the archbishop explained that respecting the “inherent value” of the right to religious freedom requires political authorities to engage with religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and civil society groups committed to promoting freedom of religion.
“Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, certain measures imposed by authorities to ensure public health also impinge on the free exercise of human rights,” he noted, explaining that many people in vulnerable situations, such as the elderly, migrants, and children, “have been disproportionately affected by the current crisis.”
“Any limitations on the exercise of human rights for the protection of public health must stem from a situation of strict necessity,” he emphasized.
“Such limitations must be proportional to the situation, applied in a non-discriminatory fashion and used only when no other means are available.”