VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- There are sectors of society that might consider religion insignificant or even annoying, but that does not justify violating the fundamental right of religious liberty, Benedict XVI is affirming.
The Pope made this observation Saturday when he received the letters of credence from Spain’s new ambassador to the Holy See, María Jesús Figa López-Palop.
After touching on various themes, the Holy Father spoke with the ambassador about the Church’s service in Spain. Particularly in the context of the global economic situation, he noted that this is perhaps the “most visible and appreciated” of the Church’s services, for believers and nonbelievers alike.
Though charity is an “essential characteristic” of the Church, he continued, “she intends to go beyond mere external and material aid, and to aim at the heart of Christian charity, for which the neighbor is first of all a person, a child of God, always in need of fraternity, respect and acceptance in any situation in which he finds himself.”
The Pontiff reflected: “In this connection, the Church offers something that is innate to her and that benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ — the hope that encourages and strengthens — as an antidote to the disappointment of other fleeting proposals and a heart lacking in values, which ends by being hardened to the point of no longer being able to perceive the genuine meaning of life and the reason for things.
“This hope gives life to confidence and collaboration, thus changing a somber present into strength of spirit to address the future with hope, [the future] both of the person as well as of the family and of society.”
Unfortunately, the Pope noted, societies are often hostile to the faith, instead of fostering openness to the transcendent.
“The fact that in some realms there is a tendency to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor, even annoying, does not justify trying to marginalize it, at times through denigration, ridicule, discrimination and even indifference in face of incidents of clear profanation, which violate the fundamental right of religious liberty inherent to the dignity of the human person,” he said.
In recent weeks in Spain, chapels on university campuses have been the site of profanation or anti-religious demonstrations. And a push to remove all religious symbols from public places has come from various sectors over the years.
But the Church watches over people’s rights, Benedict XVI affirmed, since it is concerned about every human being, in all of the facets and situations of his life.
“She watches over the right to human life from its beginning to its natural end, because life is sacred and no one can dispose of it arbitrarily,” he said. “She watches over protection and aid to the family, and advocates economic, social and juridical measures so that the man and woman who enter marriage and form a family will have the necessary support to fulfill their vocation to be sanctuaries of love and life.
“She also advocates an education that integrates the moral and religious values in keeping with the parents’ convictions, as is their right, and as fits the integral development of young people, and that, for the same reason, includes also the teaching of the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, as is established in the juridical legislation itself.”
Benedict XVI has formed a particular relationship with Spain, given that it is the country besides Italy that he has most visited.
In addition to his July 2006 visit to Valencia for the World Meeting of Families, he also went to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona last November. This August, he will go to Madrid for World Youth Day.
He expressed his gratitude for “so many attentions and manifestations of closeness and affection to the Successor of Peter on the part of the Spanish and their authorities.”
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