State Must Accept, Not Just Tolerate, Religion, Says Vatican Aide

Archbishop Tauran Gives Address in Mexico

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MEXICO CITY, SEPT. 30, 2002 ( The state must not presume that the Church is at its service, but it does have a right to expect ecclesial collaboration in areas that foster the common good, a Vatican official says.

Addressing a conference on «Church-State Relations in the Modern State,» Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, said that communities of believers must never be expected to be the source of support of a party or political program. That would amount to a crass manipulation, the French prelate said.

Archbishop Tauran delivered his address last Wednesday at the International Congress on Religious Liberty, which was held in the auditorium of the Union of Universities of Latin America, in University City, where he received recognition for his contribution and signed the charter for the establishment of the Institute of Religious Liberty in Mexico.

The archbishop was in Mexico to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the country and the Vatican.

He used the opportunity to raise pointed questions. What use is the Church if it only repeats what everyone else says and does? What kind of a Church would it be if it did no more than mimic the world?

Quoting from the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Tauran said: «The future of humanity is in the hands of those who will be able to give future generations reasons to live and hope.» In this area, «political powers and spiritual authorities must work together,» he added.

The vitality of a society and the congruence of politics require that the nation have men who believe, love and hope, Archbishop Tauran said. He was accompanied by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, and by Cardinal Norberto Rivera, archbishop primate of Mexico.

In regard to church-state relations, Archbishop Tauran said that a tolerant state should practice a «positive neutrality.» That entails, he said, recognizing all religions and their external expressions, so long as they do not disrupt public order and security; maintaining good relations with religious authorities who lead their faithful; and not intervening in internal ecclesiastical issues.

Moreover, the speaker said that such a relation would justify subsidizing, if necessary, activities of a general nature and of public interest, even if they are carried out in a confessional framework, such as in schools and hospitals.

The state, moreover, cannot ignore the social reality of religion, the archbishop said. A democratic state must assure freedom of religion and even put the means for practicing religion at the disposal of believers.

«This is the reason why I am of the opinion that the state, beyond being tolerant must be accepting of all the cultural and spiritual elements that make up the fabric of the nation,» Archbishop Tauran emphasized.

The Vatican representative said that the principles that inspire the philosophy of church-state relations are the following: a healthy understanding of religious liberty that has its roots in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in national constitutions and in concordats.

They are also found, he said, in the most recent texts of international jurisprudence, which says that religious liberty is a fundamental right of the human person — it is not a state concession. Such liberty stems from the nature of the person and the state recognizes it, guarantees it and protects it.

Religious liberty can be limited only in its external expressions, in order to maintain public order, security, morality and health, the archbishop added. And religious liberty must not lead to discrimination against nonbelievers, he concluded.

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