Pope: State Must Balance Competing Freedoms

Lauds Sweden’s Openness to Christian Immigrant Refugees

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Sweden’s embrace of global refugees has significantly increased its Catholic population, but has raised questions of how to balance competing freedoms for members of society, affirms Benedict XVI.

The Pope noted this today as he received in audience Perols Ulla Birgitta Gudmundson, the new ambassador of Sweden to the Holy See.

He acknowledged in particular the thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq who have been welcomed to Sweden. “As you know,” he said, “the plight of Christians in the Middle East is of great concern to me, and while I pray daily for an improvement in conditions in their homelands that would allow them to remain, at the same time I acknowledge with gratitude the welcome given to those who have been forced to flee.”

In view of the challenges of population diversity from immigrant cultures, the Holy Father noted the government’s «prudent efforts to promote integration.» He added that «the Catholic community is keen to offer its own contribution by building up social cohesion and providing an education in the virtues.»

He affirmed the «common ground between the Church and the Swedish authorities» in the area of defense of human rights and individual freedoms, and underlined the importance of building on this further in the future.

The Pontiff stated: «Maintaining a balance between competing freedoms represents one of the most delicate moral challenges faced by the modern state. Some of the dilemmas that arise are of particular concern to the Holy See.

«For example, every liberal society has to assess carefully to what extent freedom of speech and expression can be allowed to ignore religious sensibilities. The question is of particular importance when the harmonious integration of different religious groups is a priority.

«Furthermore, the right to be defended against discrimination is sometimes invoked in circumstances that place in question the right of religious groups to state and put into practice their strongly held convictions, for example, concerning the fundamental importance for society of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong union between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life.»

Benedict XVI encouraged a reflection on human rights and how the country is protecting the legitimate needs of the weakest and most vulnerable. He affirmed, «The Holy See is eager to engage with all interested parties in the continuing debate that surrounds these questions in today’s world.»

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-24611?l=english

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