John Paul II Calls for Adequate Separation of Church and State

Greets New Turkish Ambassador to Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2004 ( John Paul II advocated an adequate separation of church and state so that citizens, regardless of their religion, can make their contribution to society.

The Pope explained this on Saturday in his address to Osman Durak, Turkey’s new ambassador to the Holy See, when the envoy presented his credentials.

The Holy Father began by saying that «the rule of law and equality of rights are essential traits for any modern society that truly seeks to safeguard and promote the common good.»

«In fulfilling this task, the clear distinction between the civil and religious spheres allows each of these sectors to exercise its proper responsibilities effectively, with mutual respect and in complete freedom of conscience,» he explained.

«In a pluralistic society the secularity of the state allows for communication between the different spiritual dimensions and the nation,» the Pope added. «The church and the state, therefore, are not rivals but partners: In healthy dialogue with each other they can encourage integral human development and social harmony.»

John Paul II recalled that the Turkish Constitution recognizes «freedom of conscience, as well as freedom of religion, worship and instruction.»

«These constitutional guarantees, once they have become part of ordinary legislation and therefore of the living fabric of society, permit all citizens regardless of religious belief or affiliation to make their contribution to the building up of Turkish society,» he said.

«The nation is thus able to benefit from the hope and the moral qualities that draw their strength from the deeply held religious convictions of the people,» the Pope added.

«As Turkey prepares to establish new relations with Europe, the Catholic population is looking forward to recognition on the part of the Turkish authorities and institutions of the Church’s juridical status in your country,» he said.

The Pontiff appealed to the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights of the Turkish National Assembly to respond «in an adequate manner to the petition presented to it last September concerning the common religious and pastoral needs of the Christian and non-Muslim minorities living in Turkey.»

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