Human rights and religious freedom have been a much-discussed area of Vatican foreign policy in the last twelve months. A recent agreement, brokered in part by Parolin, with the Chinese Communist government ceded some aspects of episcopal appointments to Beijing, with the hope of easing communist control on the Church in that country.
U.S. ambassador at large for religious liberty Sam Brownback expressed his own reservations about the deal in a speech last month, saying it would "likely result in only individuals whom the [Communist] Party deems loyal to its interests being put forth to the Vatican."
In the meantime, Brownback noted, China "continues to violate the sacred right to religious freedom that is in its Constitution and also enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human rights."
Apart from specific cases, Parolin also spoke about the rise of "new rights" in a culture which has lost sight of human nature's roots in natural law.
The principled support of natural law, family, and life issues by religious believers is under attack, Parolin said, because secular society does not hold religious belief to be an essential part of human nature.
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"Some of the so-called 'new human rights' at times tend to conflict with those universally recognized fundamental human rights, including religious freedom and the right to life," Parolin said.
"For example, the exercise of religious freedom, especially in the public square, with regard to the institution of marriage or concerning the inviolable right to all human life, often runs up against the so-called 'new rights' that tend to present themselves in complete contradiction with, or encroach upon, these fundamental human rights."
"When discussing religious freedom, we should never lose sight of the anthropological basis of this right. To do so is to run the risk of understanding religious freedom as something ancillary to the human person, as something conceded from 'outside' the person, even by the State, rather than as a God-given gift, indeed a gift rooted in the transcendent dimension of human nature."