Pope Lauds Call to Defend Mideast Christians

Notes European Battle for Religious Freedom

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing appreciation to the European countries that have taken up the call to defend Mideast Christians under violent attack.

The Pope stated this today in an annual New Year address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

He affirmed that the recent attacks on Christians in Iraq and Egypt have «troubled us deeply.»

On Dec. 30, a wave of 11 bomb attacks killed two Christians and wounded 16 in Iraq. This violence was the latest in a series that began with the Oct. 31 massacre at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, which that day claimed more than 50 lives.

In addition, the Pontiff noted, «terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed» when a Jan. 1 bombing at the Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, claimed the lives of 21 people.

«This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities,» he stated.

The Holy Father expressed appreciation for «the concern for the rights of the most vulnerable and the political farsightedness which some countries in Europe have demonstrated in recent days by their call for a concerted response on the part of the European Union for the defense of Christians in the Middle East.»


He added, «Among the norms prejudicing the right of persons to religious freedom, particular mention must be made of the law against blasphemy in Pakistan.»

Benedict XVI encouraged «the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law, all the more so because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities.»

«The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction,» he said. «The worship of God furthers fraternity and love, not hatred and division.»

Other threats

The Pope also lamented the fact that in many countries there are «other kinds of threats to the full exercise of religious freedom» as «religion is increasingly being marginalized.»

«Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions, and even in opposition to them, as for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals,» he noted.

«In this context,» the Pontiff added, «one can only be gratified by the adoption by the Council of Europe last October of a resolution protecting the right to conscientious objection on the part of medical personnel vis-à-vis certain acts which gravely violate the right to life, such as abortion.»

He also expressed appreciation to the authorities of several European nations that «supported the appeal lodged by the Italian government in the well-known case involving the display of the crucifix in public places.»

«Continuing my reflection,» the Holy Father said, «I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education which allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.»

«An abstract proclamation of religious freedom is insufficient,» he asserted.

Benedict XVI explained that «this fundamental rule of social life must find application and respect at every level and in all areas; otherwise, despite correct affirmations of principle, there is a risk that deep injustice will be done to citizens wishing to profess and freely practice their faith.»

The Pope noted that promoting the full religious freedom of Catholic communities and others is the aim of the Holy See in its diplomatic work.

He affirmed that «religion does not represent a problem for society» and «it is not a source of discord or conflict.»

«The Church,» the Pontiff said, «seeks no privileges, nor does she seek to intervene in areas unrelated to her mission, but simply to exercise the latter with freedom.»

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-31404?l=english

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