Vatican official speaks on religious freedom at US-sponsored conference in Rome


In a conference on religious freedom held this morning at Rome's Gregorian University Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, underscored that Vatican diplomacy were not determined by political interests but by the aim of ensuring religious freedom and conditions that allow the Church freedom to carry out Her mission.

The conference, "The Holy See and Contemporary Challenges to Religious Freedom," was organized by the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and the United States.

The archbishop noted that the Holy’s contriubution to the question of “religious freedom as the cornerstone of human dignity," is “to ensure that this right is recognized by individual States and, above all, by the international community."

"Considering the importance of religious freedom for the very life of the Church and Her faithful, it is obvious that Vatican diplomacy must actively concern itself with this right,” he said.

“The diplomacy of the Holy See,” he stated, “in fact, does not determine its priorities based on economic or political interest, not does it have geopolitical ambitions; its 'strategic' priorities are, above all, to insure and to promote favorable conditions not only for the exercise of the proper mission of the Church as such, but also for the life of faith of believers."

Archbishop Lajolo explained that the Holy See's "concordat" diplomacy - agreements with other countries concerning "a specific content" (of which 115 have been concluded in 1965) – are "inspired by certain fundamental criteria" such as ensuring "freedom of cult, jurisdiction and of association of the Catholic Church" and opening "areas of cooperation between the Catholic Church and the civil authorities," especially regarding charitable activity and education.

"Even in States in which the right to religious freedom is taken very seriously and in which the Church can say that she is reasonably satisfied, there is always something which does not adequately respond to her needs,” noted the archbishop.

He said that “in one country, for example, the specific nature of some of her fundamental institutions is not recognized (for example, regarding her hierarchical structure); in another there is no due recognition of canonical marriage; in another the educational system does not sufficiently respect the right of parents and even less of the Church; in yet another the economic system does not take into account the properly social ends of the institutions of the Church.”

“In these countries, notwithstanding this or that particular limitation, the Church nevertheless can say that she enjoys almost always sufficient freedom, equal to that of other confessions," he mentioned in conclusion.

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