TOLEDO, Spain, FEB. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Spain has been given a “great light” with a speech from Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, says a recently named Vatican prefect.
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, who took over the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments from Cardinal Francis Arinze in December, is still the apostolic administrator of the Primate Archdiocese of Toledo. With this perspective, he considered the fruits of last week’s visit to Spain from the Pope’s closest collaborator, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The Italian cardinal addressed the Spanish episcopal conference Thursday with a discourse marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In a homily Sunday, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera affirmed that Cardinal Bertone’s discourse on human rights “is for everyone a great light to straighten our steps, those of everyone, in the present moment and the years to come.”
The Spanish cardinal emphasized the importance of a visit from Cardinal Bertone since he is “the second in the Church, the immediate and direct collaborator of the Holy Father, his main spokesman and the one who carries out his ministry together with him.”
In his address, the Pope’s secretary of state lamented that, unlike 60 years ago, there is now “a continuous and radical process [under way] to redefine individual human rights in very sensitive and essential themes, such as the family, the rights of children and of women, etc.”
But, he insisted, human rights “are above politics and also above the nation-state. They are truly supranational” and their protection “should be a priority for every state.”
Noting the Holy Father’s speech last April to the United Nations, Cardinal Bertone affirmed that freedom “cannot be invoked to justify certain excesses,” which can lead to a “regression in the concept of the human being,” particularly in issues such as life and family.
Placing himself against Spanish moves to extend “abortion rights” and to initiatives regarding education, the cardinal affirmed: “From conception, children have the right to be able to count on the father and the mother, who care for them and accompany them in their growth.”
The state, he said, “should support with adequate social policies everything that promotes the stability and unity of marriage, the responsibility of spouses, and their right and irreplaceable task as educators of their children.”
Cardinal Bertone added that “confessional teaching of religion in public centers is in accord with the principle of secularity, because it does not imply adhesion, nor therefore identification, of the state with the dogmas and morality that make up the content of this material. Moreover, this type of teaching is not contrary to the right to religious liberty of students and their parents, given its voluntary character.”
The Pope’s secretary of state went on to consider what makes for a healthy secularity, saying that the aim to impose a strictly private faith or religiosity is “interference in the rights of people to live their religious convictions as they wish or as these [convictions] dictate.”
Cardinal Bertone affirmed that religious liberty is the “support of other liberties, their reason for being.”
And a democratic state, he contended, “is not neutral regarding religious liberty itself, but rather, like with other public liberties, must recognize it and create the conditions for its effective and full exercise by all citizens.”
It is not a sign of healthy secularity “to negate the Christian community,” the cardinal said, “and to those who legitimately represent it, [to deny] the right to speak out on the moral problems that today engage the consciences of all human beings, particularly legislators and jurists.”
This balance is not at all a blurring of the mutual autonomy of Church and state, the Vatican official continued, affirming that the Church respects the autonomy of temporal realities and “asks the same attitude of respect for its mission in the world.”
But, he lamented, “religious liberty is far from being effectively secured.”
“In some cases,” Cardinal Bertone observed, “it is negated for religious or ideological reasons” and in others, “though it is recognized theoretically, it is impeded in fact by the political power or, in a more cunning manner, by the predominant culture of agnosticism and relativism.”
“It should never,” he declared, “be necessary to deny God to be able to enjoy one’s rights.”
Cardinal Cañizares Llovera on Sunday called the discourse “valid for everyone,” saying it “opens a broad horizon of hope for a new society, a new humanity, a new civilization.”
He said the address was not an imposition or condemnation of anyone, but “offered the yes of God to man, given us in an irrevocable way in Jesus Christ.”
“There is the ultimate base of fundamental and universal human rights,” Cardinal Cañizares Llovera continued, “an expression of the truth of man loved by God, each one, in his creation and redemption. There, your bishops have seen ourselves confirmed in our teachings, because the only thing we aim for, making ourselves all things for all people, above all identifying ourselves with the weak and defenseless, is to show, to offer, to give and to enable participation in the love of God for man, the Gospel that we cannot silence.”