Holy See Asks Spain to Read Papal Address More Closely

Reiterates Willingness to Dialogue With Government

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See asked the Spanish government to read carefully the address John Paul II delivered this week to the country’s bishops, after officials called the papal nuncio in Madrid.

Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, handed a statement today to the international press, guaranteeing the Church’s willingness to dialogue.

A statement issued by the General Executive for Foreign Communications of the Spanish Foreign Ministry, revealed that on Wednesday the executive expressed to the apostolic nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, the “surprise” caused by the words the Pope expressed in his address Monday.

Luis Calvo Merino, undersecretary for foreign affairs, expressed his “surprise” over “the explicit reference” in the papal address “to an alleged restrictive secularism that might limit religious liberty and that this might be attributed to a deliberate attitude of the government.”

The papal address, however, did not make this explicit reference. The Holy Father stated: “Also spreading in the social realm is a mentality inspired by secularism, an ideology that leads gradually, in a more or less conscious way, to the restriction of religious liberty to the point of promoting contempt or ignorance of the religious, relegating faith to the private sphere and opposing its public expression.”

According to the ministerial statement, the government also expressed “its surprise over the mention made in the address of the duty that public powers have to guarantee the right to religious teaching and to ensure the real conditions for its exercise, given that the teaching regime of religious education is regulated by the 1979 Agreement between Spain and the Holy See on Teaching and Cultural Affairs.”

In his address, John Paul II reminded the bishops that the public powers have the duty to guarantee the right of parents to the religious education of their children and to “ensure the real conditions of its effective exercise, as expressed in the 1979 Partial Agreements between Spain and the Holy See, currently in force.”

One of the first measures taken by the executive of the Spanish Socialist Labor Party, elected last March, was to freeze the aspect of educational reform that provided effective recognition of the course on religion in schools, although it kept its optional character.

The statement issued by the Spanish government concluded by affirming “its desire to maintain a fruitful understanding with the Church, through a permanent dialogue based on profound respect in the realm of the competencies of each as recognized in the agreements made between Spain and the Holy See.”

Given this proposal, the Vatican spokesman concluded his statement by affirming that “noted with satisfaction is the willingness of the Spanish government to maintain a fruitful understanding with the Church through a permanent dialogue, animated by reciprocal respect, as expressed in the statement itself. This has always been and will be the line of the Holy See.”

The first months of the Socialist government, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, have witnessed the announcement of measures that have provoked the opposition of Catholics and their pastors.

In addition to the freeze on the effective recognition of the optional teaching of religion, the government has announced measures such as the draft bill of the law of recognition of homosexual marriage, including the adoption of children; a draft bill to establish quick divorce (90 days of marriage are sufficient); and the approval of research with human embryos.

The Catholic Confederation of Parents’ Associations announced a week ago the end of the campaign in favor of the religion course, in which it has collected more than 3.1 million signatures.

On Wednesday, more than 200 associations presented the “Manifesto for Rights and Liberties,” in which they claim from the government “respect through deeds of our beliefs and values.”

It said: “We demand that a table of dialogue be established with the organizations that represent” Catholics, who constitute 94% of Spanish society.

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