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Vatican Calls For Freedom Of Religion

8-Apr-2000 -- Vatican Information Service


VATICAN CITY, APR 8, 2000 (VIS) - Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, Holy See permanent observer to the Offices of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, Switzerland, spoke on April 6 at the 56th session of the Human Rights Commission on Point 11, "Religious Intolerance."

In his speech in French, made public today, the archbishop highlighted "the Holy See's commitment to guaranteeing the legitimate freedom of believers, Christians and non-Christians, to be able to follow the path of their conscience, adhere to the religion of their choice and to publicly profess their faith, without discrimination or segregation, by freely belonging to an organized religious community. On many occasions Pope John Paul II has recalled that religious freedom is the most intimate of rights, indeed the heart of human rights, which makes other personal freedoms possible."

He said that "the Catholic Church does not ask for privileges, but rather claims the freedom necessary, which every citizen should enjoy, to live her religious life and contribute to the development of society."

"If a concern exists," said Archbishop Bertello, "it is seeing the discrepancy between the theoretical acceptance of these principles ... and respecting them in practice."

Highlighting the Catholic Church's activities in the field of inter-religious dialogue, the Holy See observer noted that "respecting each other's convictions is an irreplaceable value in favoring meetings between persons of different beliefs." He recalled the Holy Father's "forceful" words during a March 23 inter-religious meeting in Jerusalem: "Religion is not and must not be an excuse for violence, in particular when religious identity coincides with cultural or ethnic identity. Religion and peace go together!"

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