Cardinal Sodano Puts Buttiglione Case in Perspective

Sees Anti-Christian Bias, But Warns of Wider Challenges

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ROME, OCT. 17, 2004 ( Christians in Europe suffer discrimination, but the real problems of the Continent are its relationship with Islam and the very concept of religious freedom, says the Vatican’s secretary of state.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano made that comment Friday to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, in the wake of the debate unleashed by the rejection by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee of Rocco Buttiglione’s candidature for EU justice and security commissioner.

Earlier, Buttiglione had expressed his Catholic convictions on homosexuality.

«At this time it is difficult to express judgments on this case, in particular, and more in general on what has happened in Brussels over the last days,» Cardinal Sodano said. «Perhaps one must remain silent.»

«I would urge: not to be preoccupied by these concrete vicissitudes or about what has happened in European institutions,» he said. «It is not the first time that Catholics, Christians, men of the Church, are faced with problems of this sort and the danger of isolation and discrimination.

«Suffice it to look at Christian history to realize this immediately. The life of the Church in the course of 2,000 years has always been fraught with difficulties of all kinds, and [the Church] has confronted obstacles that seemed to be insurmountable.»

The cardinal continued: «We must never be surprised to be faced with cases such as ones that have occurred in Europe. What is important is to go forward with confidence and serenity, trusting that in the end truth will triumph.»

Cardinal Sodano contended that, «beyond sociopolitical difficulties,» there are greater challenges for Christianity.

«The great problem of the future will be that of our relations with the Muslim world. It is a challenge that does not only confront the Church,» he said.

The Vatican secretary of state suggested the application of the principle of reciprocity with the Muslim world.

«Just as Muslim communities in the West have the right to their places of prayer and freedom of worship, so also Christians must have the same freedom in any other part of the world, including Muslim countries,» he said.

Also, Europe is faced with new difficulties in exercising the right to religious freedom, he said. In this connection, «the Church is called increasingly to make those understand who do not believe that we, Christian believers, have the right to proclaim the truth of the Gospel,» the cardinal added.

It is a right that is «directly linked to the sacred principle of the freedom that every person enjoys beyond the faith he professes, his race, his political choices,» he insisted.

«I believe that Europe must never forget its authentic history, its authentic roots; it must not forget what Christianity has brought to each country at the cultural, artistic and literary level,» he added. «I think that the temptation to moral relativism, doctrinal agnosticism, will soon be overcome because truth, in the end, will triumph.»

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