ASTANA, Kazakhstan, DEC. 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s secretary of state is urging the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to give priority to the fundamental right of religious freedom.
In an address Wednesday at the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone affirmed that religious believers are fundamental for the common good.
“Our contemporaries have learned much from the excesses of the past, and have understood that to believe in God, practicing one’s religion and joining others to express one’s faith is not a concession granted by the state, but a true right founded on the very dignity of the human person,” said the cardinal.
He cited the Pope’s address at Westminster Hall during his apostolic journey to England, noting how there is a growing marginalization of religion and particularly of Christianity.
“Religious life, as an important factor for the social and cultural life of countries, is not only threatened by vexatious restrictions, but also by relativism and a false secularism, which excludes religion from public life,” the cardinal decried.
He affirmed that it is important for believers to be able to “participate freely in the public debate to present to the world a vision inspired by their faith.”
“In this way,” Cardinal Bertone said, “they contribute to the moral growth of the society in which they live.”
The cardinal pointed out the problem of intolerance and religious discrimination, closely united to the issue of religious liberty.
It is amply documented that Christians are the religious group most persecuted and discriminated against, he said. “More than 200 million of them, belonging to different confessions, are in a difficult situation because of legal and cultural structures.”
The Pope’s closest assistant declared that “the international community must combat intolerance and discrimination against Christians with the same determination with which it fights against hatred toward members of other religious communities.”
Cardinal Bertone also took up the theme of immigration in his address.
He said human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and affirmed that to combat this “multi-dimensional problem, often linked to migration,” human rights “must be put at the center of all strategies.”
Specifically, the cardinal proposed anti-traffic initiatives that also seek development in immigrants’ countries of origin and “offer concrete possibilities to flee from the poverty-abuse-exploitation cycle.”
The prelate warned against the tendency to forget migrants’ rights at this time of economic crisis and he reminded that “the migrant’s status does not erase his human dignity.”