Peace Day Theme Highlights Religious Freedom

Benedict XVI Continues to Elaborate «Path to Peace»

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2010 ( Benedict XVI chose a theme for the 44th World Day of Peace that will highlight the role of religious freedom in fostering peace.

The World Day of Peace is observed every Jan. 1, which is also the Solemnity of the Mother of God. The theme for 2011 will be «Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace.»

In the Vatican communiqué published today it explained that «in many parts of the world there exist various forms of restrictions or denials of religious freedom, from discrimination and marginalization based on religion, to acts of violence against religious minorities.»

The note stated that religious freedom «is rooted in the equal and inherent dignity of man,» and is «oriented toward the search for ‘unchangeable truth.'» It called religious freedom the «freedom of freedoms.»

«This notion of religious freedom offers us a fundamental criterion for discerning the phenomenon of religion and its manifestations,» the statement explained. «It necessarily rejects the ‘religiosity’ of fundamentalism, and the manipulation and the instrumentalization of the truth and of the truth of man.

«Since such distortions are opposed to the dignity of man and to the search for truth, they cannot be considered as religious freedom. Rather, an authentic notion of religious freedom offers a profound vision of this fundamental human right, one which broadens the horizons of ‘humanity’ and ‘freedom’ of man, allowing for the establishment of a deep relationship with oneself, with the other and with the world.

«Religious freedom is a freedom in this respect for human dignity and life.»

The Vatican explained that the theme is one in a series that marks a «path to peace» as set out by Benedict XVI: «Since 2006, his message for the World Day of Peace has focused on important dimensions of the truth (In Truth, Peace, 2006), the dignity of the human person (The Human Person, the Heart of Peace, 2007), the unity of the human family (The Human Family, a Community of Peace, 2008), the fight against poverty (Fighting Poverty to Build Peace, 2009), and finally care for creation (If you Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation, 2010).

«This journey has its roots in the vocation of man to truth (capax Dei) and, having as a ‘polestar’ human dignity, leads to the freedom to seek the truth.»

The Vatican communiqué noted that there are «many areas of the world in which forms of restrictions and limitations to religious freedom persist, both where communities of believers are a minority, and where communities of believers are not a minority, and where more sophisticated forms of discrimination and marginalization exist, on the cultural level and in the spheres of public civil and political participation.»

«It is inconceivable,» it continued, quoting Benedict XVI, «that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves — their faith — in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.»

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