Holy See: Religion Raises the Human Spirit

Addresses UN on the Essential Contribution of Faith

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NEW YORK, NOV. 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Although religion in its true form serves the spiritual and transcendental dimension of the human person, leading to a host of positive outcomes, it is often manipulated by leaders, movements and ideologies to advance a different agenda.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, said this today during the debate on the culture of peace of the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

The archbishop pointed out the key contribution of religions to peace and development: «The unique contribution of religions and the dialogue and cooperation among them lies in their ‘raison d’être,’ which is to serve the spiritual and transcendental dimension of human nature.

«They tend as well to raise the human spirit, protect life, empower the weak, translate ideals into action, purify institutions, contribute to resolving economic and non-economic inequalities, inspire their leaders to go beyond the normal call of duty, permit people to attain a fuller realization of their natural potential, and traverse situations of conflict through reconciliation, peace-building processes and the healing of memories scarred by injustice.»

Nonetheless, Archbishop Migliore lamented, individual leaders, ideologies and national movements have often used religion to advance their own agendas. For this reason, he called for a «coherent vision of and appropriate approach to» the role of religions in the international community.

Noting the importance of interreligious dialogue, the archbishop recalled the contribution of the Catholic Church in reaching out to the various faiths. He highlighted the dialogue the Church has carried out with Jewish believers, Buddhists and Hindus, and most recently with Muslims.

«This engagement seeks to foster greater respect, understanding and cooperation among believers of various denominations, encourage the study of religions and promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue,» he said. «This type of theological and spiritual dialogue requires that it be conducted by and among believers and adopt a proper methodology.

«At the same time, it offers the indispensable premise and basis for that much broader culture of dialogue and cooperation that different academic, political, economic and international institutions have launched in past decades.»

The United Nations has also worked toward building a «culture of respect» among religions, acknowledged Archbishop Migliore, but he reminded the international body that its primary responsibility is to ensure religious freedom.

Religious freedom, the archbishop defined, is the «full respect for and promotion not only of the fundamental freedom of conscience, but also of the expression and practice of everybody’s religion, without restriction.»

Nonetheless, he acknowledged that a fundamental goal of the United Nations is to «engage States as well as all segments of human society to recognize, respect and promote the dignity and rights of every person and each community in the world.»

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