Archbishop Tomasi addresses the UN on religious freedom


In a statement to the UN in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi addressed the President regarding the delicate balance of freedom of religion and expression, the respect of religious and non-religious beliefs, and the defamation of members of a religion in the world today.

Addressing the United Nations Office and other international organizations on September 14th, the archbishop, who is the permanent observer of the Holy See, referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 that demonstrated that religious freedom can act as a bridge among human rights.  His recommendation was that religion should be part of not only civil and political arenas, but also the consideration of economic, social and cultural rights. 

He continued, “the presence and influence of the principal world religions have often been a means of transcending the subjective limitations of the positivist juridical order with objective moral norms that serve the common good of all humanity.”

The archbishop also pointed out that acknowledging religious freedom does not mean “that public powers should work in such a way that the profession of a religion limits civil rights or political and institutional participation.”  Religious freedom is never something that should be used “to deny economic, social and cultural rights to individuals or to communities.”

The archbishop asked that the Council consider the need to address cases of real religious defamation and discrimination, instead of regulating all religious expressions. He noted that such demands need to recognize that expression of a religious creed assumes a public function, “it contributes to social cohesion and therefore to the peaceful living together of all people, minorities and majority (sic), believers and non believers, within the same country.”

Archbishop Tomasi concluded by asking the president to protect all human rights, with the including the profession of a religion.  If the UN acts upon this recommendation, it is implied that the it accepts that “human rights are interrelated and that international standards should be translated into judicial and legal national provisions for the equal benefit, protection and freedom of every person.”

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