Pope denounces recent attacks in meeting with Holy See diplomats

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • January 13, 2011
Blasphemy protestsVATICAN CITY - Religious freedom and religious diversity are not threats to society and should not be a source of conflict, Pope Benedict XVI told diplomats from around the world.

The Pope asked the representatives of 178 countries, as well as of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the European Community and the Knights of Malta, to examine how well their own countries respect the right of individuals to believe, to act in accordance with their conscience, to gather with other believers for worship and to carry out the educational and social projects their faith inspires.

Pope Benedict met Jan. 10 with diplomats accredited to the Holy See and continued his Christmas-season focus on the connection between religious liberty and peace, and on threats to full religious freedom in Western democracies as well as in countries notorious for violating human rights.

Once again he denounced recent attacks on Christians in Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria and expressed concern about the recent renewal of Chinese government restrictions on Catholics there. Condemning the murder Jan. 4 of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab in Pakistan, the Pope said the country must overturn its blasphemy law, which makes insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran punishable by death.

Taseer supported the move to abrogate the law, which the Pope said often “serves as a pretext of acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities.”

The Pope also announced that the communist government of Vietnam has accepted his appointment of a papal representative to Catholics in the country. Vietnam agreed in June to allow the Pope to name a representative as a first step toward diplomatic relations. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the representative’s name would be announced shortly.

Pope Benedict told the diplomats that when religious believers are free to practise their faith, society benefits from an increase in upright behaviour, respect for others and solidarity with the poor and weak.

Discussing threats to full religious freedom in Western democracies, the Pope expressed concern about efforts to push religion to the margins of public life and about situations in which citizens are denied the right to act in accordance with their religious convictions, “for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals.”

The Vatican has insisted on the right of Catholic health care workers, including pharmacists, not to be involved in abortions or other procedures that violate Church teaching on the right to life.

The Pope told the diplomats that there is no such thing as a “scale of degrees of religious intolerance” whereby a certain amount is acceptable.

It is not permissible to infringe on the freedom of conscience out of concern to uphold “other alleged new rights which, while actively promoted by certain sectors of society and inserted in national legislation or in international directives, are nonetheless merely an expression of selfish desires lacking a foundation in authentic human nature,” the Pope said.

Lombardi said those “alleged new rights” included a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and the right of homosexual people to marry and adopt children.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.