Aide Notes Pope's Commitment to Religious Liberty

Father Lombardi Reflects on Address to Diplomatic Corps

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s New Year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See marks a “new chapter” in the Pope’s commitment to religious liberty, says a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See press office, said this today in a commentary on the speech the Holy Father delivered today to the ambassadors who represent the 178 states that enjoy diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The reflection was aired on Vatican Radio.

The priest underlined that while the Pontiff’s concern for religious liberty is “always alive,” over the last few months it has been “much more present in public statements.”

Father Lombardi noted as examples Benedict XVI’s addresses on the occasion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, his address in London’s Westminster Hall, his appeals after the tragic attacks on Christian churches in Iraq and Egypt, as well as the address of the Pontiff’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, at the recent summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The spokesman also noted that the Pope’s address to the diplomatic corps built upon his recent Message for the World Day of Peace. The peace day message, Father Lombardi explained, “gave a broad view on the foundations of the right of religious liberty and on the need to protect it in face of the risks and attacks — both concrete and tragic violations, as well as negative attitudes of an ideological-cultural origin with juridical consequences.”

The address to the diplomats, he continued, “offered an impressive series of indications on places and situations in which this right is clearly violated or questioned in a more or less explicit and radical way.”

“The Pope can certainly not be reproached for not speaking clearly,” the spokesman added. “Everyone can understand without difficulty what he has said.”

Mission

Father Lombardi noted that the message of religious freedom is “at the heart of [Benedict XVI’s] mission,” and “one of the characteristic features of this pontificate and of its historic mission.”

“We have never forgotten,” the spokesman noted, “that in the first address of the pontificate, in the Sistine Chapel, Benedict XVI pointed to God and man’s relationship with God as the first of his priorities.”

From here, continued the Jesuit, “stems all his effort and that of the Church to serve the person and the human community,” reminding that the Church’s diplomatic action also “seeks first of all to promote the cause of God as guarantor of the cause of man.”

Father Lombardi said that “the explicit and courageous way with which Benedict XVI carries out his service of proposing the right of religious liberty for all” consists of “encouraging interreligious dialogue,” as well as promoting the commitment of all religious and civil authorities to serve “the dignity of the human person and peace.”

He said it also consists of “defending the liberty of the constructive and beneficent presence of Christian witness in today’s world and culture.”

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