Italy Plans Model Law on Religious Freedom

Initiative of GRIS and Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum

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ROME, MAY 14, 2003 ( Fostering coexistence between different cultures and religions «is the only possible future for the world,» Bishop Vincenzo Paglia Terni-Narni-Amelia posited as the objective for Italy’s upcoming law on religious freedom.

Bishop Paglia, member of the Episcopal Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), addressed the on-going debate over the Italian Parliament’s plan for a model law on religious freedom at a round table discussion held May 13, on «The Law of Religious Freedom in Italy.»

Organized by Socio-Religious Research and Information Group (GRIS) and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum of Rome, all representatives of Italy’s constitutional parties participated in the event. The meeting analyzed the State’s point of view in the regulation of the fundamental right of religious freedom.

The importance of such legislation lies also in the fact that «it might be an example of an international character,» the rector of the Pontifical Athenaeum, Father Paolo Scarafoni, L.C., emphasized at the opening of the meeting.

«The law of religious freedom is one of the most significant and important because it is founded on the dignity of the person,» the GRIS’ national secretary, professor Giuseppe Ferrari, said.

Professor Ferrari recalled that «more than any one else, John Paul II can be considered the defender of human rights and, in particular, of religious freedom.»

For his part, Bishop Paglia stressed a lawmaker’s important obligation to address the multiplicity of religions that history reflects as a consolidated and irreversible fact.

Though it is imperative that religions meet, «to dialogue does not mean to give up or dilute one’s own creed. Only those who are firm in their religious identity can engage in a real dialogue.»

Referring, specifically, to the law, Bishop Paglia continued: «the most arduous question refers to the Islamic religion… I think the Italian State has every right to request reciprocity in relations from Muslim states,» he said.

In this connection, the bishop added that «if the law is approved during the semester of Italy’s European presidency, it would have even greater authority, before the other countries, to ask for reciprocity.»

The proposed law «reflects the wisdom of Italian Law, which does not» follow «the French interpretation and does not conceive the laicism of the Constitution as ostracism in regard to religions, but as the State’s imperative commitment to uphold the religious dimension of all in the juridical and civil framework,» the bishop concluded.

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