VIEGE, Switzerland, DEC. 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of Switzerland are expressing their concern over the “strong hostility” against the presence of religious signs in public places, and said that banning the crucifix “will never be an expression of tolerance, but of intolerance, as it impedes public expression of the Christian faith.”
The Swiss Bishops’ Conference made this statement in the final official communiqué of the 290th ordinary assembly held in Viege last week, in which they also expressed their solidarity with Christians persecuted in the Middle East.
The prelates criticized the existence of “a strong hostility recently manifested against religious signs in public places,” and the “tendency that pretends to confine people’s belief to the private sphere.”
The episcopal conference stressed that liberty of beliefs and conscience “is a precious good that every religious community and every state must respect,” and that liberty “enables men to live, individually or in the community of their choice, in keeping with their belief and conscience — both in private as well as in public.”
“From here stems the right to give witness and to live one’s faith publicly through visible signs,” stated the communiqué.
Moreover, they added, “the majority of the population favors the public presence of Christian signs, such as the cross and the crucifix,” because they recognize that “it’s not defending old privileges, but that through the disappearance of these signs, the risk is run of compromising the Christian foundations of our society and of our way of living together without coercion.”
The episcopal conference also stated that “the liberty of beliefs and of conscience is guaranteed only if the statements and signs of the different convictions are tolerated in a reciprocal way.”
In this connection, the bishops also wished to expressed their solidarity with Christians persecuted in the Middle East.
“The conditions of life of Christians in countries of the Middle East continue deteriorating,” deplored the bishops, recalling the Oct. 31 attack on the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad.
“These acts of persecution do not seem to be stopping,” they said, inviting the “political world” and “religious communities” to establish peace. They also reminded that 200 million Christians worldwide are persecuted or systematically accosted because of their faith.
“The Swiss bishops express their gratitude to all the persons who support oppressed and persecuted Christians” and reminded that the “strongest support of Christians is prayer.”
Hence, they invited the country’s parishes “to celebrate Masses or other religious services for persecuted Christians and martyrs of their faith.”