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Today’s news dispatch: Dec. 3, 2015

Pope Receives Prime Minister of Samoa

During Cordial Discussions, Special Attention Was Given to Conference on Climate Change in Paris

This morning, Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa, His Excellency Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, in the Vatican.

According to a communique issued by the Holy See Press Office, the parties’ discussions were cordial, and focused on some aspects of the social and economic life of the country, as well as the valued contribution of the Catholic Church in various sectors of Samoan society, especially in the field of education.

The discussions were followed by an exchange of opinions on the international and regional situation, it also added, noting that special reference was made to the conference on climate change currently taking place in Paris, and the environmental problems that some Pacific island states must face.

The Prime Minister subsequently met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.

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‘Let Us Permanently Be in State of Mission,’ Say Pope

Speaking to Plenary Assembly of Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, Urges to Announce Joy of Gospel to All

“Throughout the world, let us be permanently in a state of mission.”  Speaking to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Pope Francis stressed this, urging, that this ‘going forth’ is innate in our Baptism, and the mission’s ‘boundaries’ are those of the world.

Francis encouraged the assembly of some 160 participants who have been considering the “missio ad gentes” in the light of the Conciliar decree “Ad gentes” and St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Redemptoris mission,” to continue to work so “that the spirit of the ‘missio ad gentes’ may inspire the journey of the Church, so that she may always know how to listen to the cry of the poor and the distant, to meet all and to announce the joy of the Gospel.”

Recalling his recent Apostolic Visit to Africa, which took him to the capitals of Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic, the Pontiff applauded the spiritual and pastoral dynamism of the continent’s many young Churches, and lamented the serious challenges experienced by a large part of the population.

“I saw that where there is the need, the Church is almost always present to heal the wounds of those most in need, in whom She recognises the afflicted and crucified body of the Lord Jesus,” he said. “How many works of charity, of human promotion! How many anonymous good Samaritans work every day in the missions!”

The Holy Father thanked those gathered for their work in missionary inspiration and cooperation, adding that “all Churches, if constricted to their own horizons, run the risk of atrophy.” He also pointed out that the Church lives and grows when it is outbound, takes the initiative and goes out to the people.

Francis also made a clarification that the Church is at the service of the mission, and that it is not the Church who makes the mission, but the mission that makes the Church. Given this, he said, “the mission is not a tool, but rather a starting point and aim.”

“In many paths of the ‘missio ad gentes,'” he said, “the dawn of a new day is already visible, as is shown by the fact that the young Churches know how to give, not only to receive. The first fruits are their willingness to grant their priests to sister Churches of the same nation, the same continent, or to serve Churches in need in other regions of the world.

Cooperation, he continued, is not only ‘along the north-south axis,’ saying, “There is also a movement in the other direction, of giving back the good received from the first missionaries.” He noted that these, too, are signs of maturity.

Pope Francis concluded by asking all present to pray and work so that the Church may always follow the model of the Acts of the Apostles, and praying, “Let us be inspired by the strength of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit; let us come out of our narrow enclosures and emigrate from the territories where we are are at times tempted to close ourselves.”

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FULL TEXT: Pope’s Address to Plenary Assembly of Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples

‘Therefore, continue to be committed so that the spirit of the Missio ad Gentes animates the path of the Church, and that she is always able to hear the cry of the poor and the estranged, to encounter all and to proclaim the joy of the Gospel.’

Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to those present at the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples this morning in the Vatican:

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Dear Cardinals,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I receive you on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly, in which you focused on the Missio ad Gentes, in addition to offering precious indications for the future. As Cardinal Filoni said, I have just returned from my first Apostolic Journey to Africa, where I touched with my hand the spiritual and pastoral dynamism of so many young Churches of that Continent, as well as the grave difficulties in which a good part of the population lives. I was able to see that, where there are needs, the presence of the Church is almost always there, ready to heal the wounds of the neediest, in whom she recognizes the wounded and crucified body of the Lord Jesus. How many works of charity and of human promotion ! How many anonymous Good Samaritans work every day in the missions!

Evangelizer by nature, the Church always begins by evangelizing herself. Disciple of the Lord Jesus, she listens to His Word, from which she draws the reasons for the hope that does not disappoint, because it is founded on the grace of the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 5:5). Only in this way is she able to preserve her freshness and apostolic impetus. The Conciliar Decree Ad Gentes and the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, on which you inspired this Plenary, state that “it is from the mission of the Son and from the mission of the Holy Spirit that the Church, in keeping with God the Father’s plan, derives her origin” (Ad Gentes, 2). The mission does not respond, in the first place, to human initiatives; the protagonist is the Holy Spirit, it is His project (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 21). And the Church is servant of the mission. It is not the Church that makes the mission, but the mission that makes the Church. Therefore, the mission is not the instrument, but the point of departure and the end.

In the past months, your Dicastery carried out an inquiry on the vitality of the young Churches, to understand how to render the work of the Missio ad Gentes more effective, also considering the ambiguity to which the experience of faith is exposed sometimes today. The secularized world, in fact, even when it is receptive of the evangelical values of love, of justice, of peace and of sobriety, does not show the same willingness to the person of Jesus: it does not regard Him as Messiah or Son of God. At most it considers Him an enlightened man. Therefore, it separates the message of the Messenger and the gift of the Donor. In this situation of detachment, the Missio ad Gentes acts as engine and horizon of the faith. It is vital that in the present moment “the Church succeed in proclaiming the Gospel to all, in all places, on all occasions, without delay, without repulsions and without fear” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 23). In fact, the mission is a force capable of transforming the interior of the Church herself even before the life of peoples and of cultures. Therefore, every parish should make its own the style of the Missio ad Gentes. In this way, the Holy Spirit will transform habitual faithful into disciples, disaffected disciples into missionaries, drawing them out of fears and closures and projecting them in every direction, to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). May the kerigmatic approach to the faith, so familiar among the young Churches, also find space among those of ancient tradition.

Paul and Barnabas did not have a missionary Dicastery behind them. Yet, they proclaimed the Word, gave life to several communities and shed their blood for the Gospel. Over time complexities grew, and the need for a special connection between the Churches of recent foundation and the universal Church. Therefore, four centuries ago, Pope Gregory XV instituted the Congregation De Propaganda Fide, which since 1967 assumed the name Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It is evident that in this phase of history “a simple administration [of the existing reality] is not useful. Let us constitute ourselves in all the regions of the earth in a permanent state of mission” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 25): it is a paradigm. Saint John Paul II specified the way, affirming: “Every renewal in the Church must have the mission as its purpose so as not to fall prey to a sort of ecclesial introversion” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, 19).  “To go” is inherent in Baptism, and its ends are those of the world. Therefore, continue to be committed so that the spirit of the Missio ad Gentesanimates the path of the Church, and that she is always able to hear the cry of the poor and the estranged, to encounter all and to proclaim the joy of the Gospel.

I thank you for your work of missionary animation and cooperation, with which you remember all the Churches that, if constrained in their own horizons, run the danger of being atrophied and of dying out. The Church lives and grows by being “outgoing,” taking the initiative and making herself close. Therefore, you must encourage the Communities to be generous even in moments of vocational crises. “The Mission, in fact, renews the Church, reinvigorates the faith and the Christian identity and gives new enthusiasm and motivations” (Redemptoris Missio.2).               

Visible already in many areas of the Mission ad Gentes is the dawn of a new day, as the fact demonstrates that the young Churches are able to give, not only receive. The first fruits are their willingness to give their priests to Sister Churches of the same nation, of the same Continent, or to serve needy Churches in other areas of the world. Cooperation is no longer along the north-south axis. There is also an inverse movement of restitution of the good received from the first missionaries. These are also signs of an attained maturity.

Brothers and sisters let us pray and work so that the Church is ever more in keeping with the model of the Acts of the Apostles. Let us allow ourselves to be driven by the force of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit; let us come out of our enclosures, let us emigrate from the territories in which we are sometimes tempted to close ourselves. Thus we will be able to walk and sow beyond, a little further. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, Saint Francis Xavier, today, and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Patrons of the Missions, illumine our steps in the service of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. I accompany you with my Blessing and, please, I ask you to pray for me. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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Text of Pope’s Interview With Italian Jubilee Publication ‘Credere’

“We are all sinners, we all bear interior burdens. I felt that Jesus wishes to open the door of His heart, that the Father wishes to show his deepest mercy, and therefore sends us the Spirit” 

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Holy Father’s interview with Catholic weekly magazine, ‘Credere,’ an official Jubilee publication.

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–Q: Holy Father, now that we are about to begin the Jubilee, can you explain what movement of the heart drove you to highlight precisely the subject of mercy? What urgency do you perceive in this regard, in the present situation of the world and of the Church?

–Pope Francis: The theme of mercy has been strongly accentuated in the life of the Church, since Pope Paul VI. John Paul II stressed it strongly with Dives in Misericordia, the canonization of Saint Faustina and the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter. In line with this, I felt that it is somewhat a desire of the Lord to show His mercy to humanity. Therefore, it didn’t come to my mind, but rather the relatively renet renewal of a tradition that has however always existed.

My first Angelus as Pope was on God’s mercy and, on that occasion, I also spoke of a book on mercy which was given to me by Cardinal Walter Kasper during the conclave; also, in my first homily as Pope, on Sunday, March 17, I spoke of mercy in the parish of Saint Anne. It wasn’t a strategy; it came to me from within: the Holy Spirit wills something. It’s obvious that today’s world is in need of mercy, it is in need of compassion, or to begin with We are used to bad news, to cruel news and to the greatest atrocities that offend the name and life of God. The world is in need of discovering that God is Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty isn’t the way, that condemnation isn’t the way, because the Church herself sometimes follows a hard line, she falls into the temptation of following a hard line, into the temptation of stressing only the moral rules, many people are excluded.

There, came to my mind that image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle; it’s true, how many people are wounded and destroyed! The wounded are taken care of, helped and healed, not subjected to analyses for cholesterol. I believe this is the moment of mercy. We are all sinners, we all bear interior burdens. I felt that Jesus wishes to open the door of His heart, that the Father wishes to show his deepest mercy, and therefore sends us the Spirit: to move us and to deter us. It is the year of forgiveness, the year of reconciliation. On one had we see the arms trade, the production of arms that kill, the murder of innocents in the most cruel possible way, the exploitation of persons, minors, children: a sacrilege – permit me the term – is being carried out against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. See, the Father says: stop and come to me.” This is what I see in the world.

–Q: You have said that, as all believers, you feel yourself a sinner, needy of God’s mercy. In your journey as priest and bishop, what importance has divine mercy had? Do you remember, in particular, a moment in which you felt in a transparent way, the merciful look of the Lord on your life?

–Pope Francis: I am a sinner, I feel myself a sinner, I’m sure of being so. I am a sinner upon whom the Lord has looked with mercy. I am, as I said to prisoners in Bolivia, a forgiven man. I am a forgiven man. God has looked upon me with mercy and He has forgiven me. Even now I commit errors and sins, and I go to Confession every fifteen to twenty days. And if I go to Confession, it’s because I am in need of feeling that God’s mercy is again upon me.

I remember – I have already said this many times – when the Lord looked upon me with mercy. I’ve always had the sensation that He took care of me in a special way, but the most significant moment was verified on September 21, 1953, when I was 17. It was the day of the celebration of Spring and of the Student in Argentina, and I would have spent it with the other students. I was a practicing Catholic, I went to Mass on Sundays, but no more … I was in Catholic Action but I didn’t do anything; I was only a practicing Catholic. Along the way to the train station of Flores, I passed close to the parish I frequented and I felt compelled to enter. I went in and I saw a priest coming down one side, whom I didn’t know. I don’t know what happened to me at that moment, but I realized my need to go to Confession, in the first Confessional on the left – many people went to pray there. And I don’t know what happened, but I came out different, changed. I returned home with the certainty of having to consecrate myself to the Lord and this priest accompanied me for almost a year. He was a priest from Corrientes, Father Carlos Benito Duarte Ibarra, who lived in the Clergy’s House in Flores. He had leukemia and was being taken care of in hospital. He died the following year. After the funeral I wept bitterly, I felt totally lost, as if the fear of God had abandoned me.

This was the moment I met with God’s mercy and it is very connected to my episcopal motto: September 21 is the day of Saint Matthew and, speaking of Matthew’s conversion, Bede the Venerable says that Jesus looked at Matthew “miserando atque eligendo.” It’s an expression that can’t be translated, because in Italian one of the two verbs has no gerund, not even in Spanish. The literal translation would be ”having mercy and choosing,” almost as craftwork. “Had mercy on him”: this is the literal translation of the text. When years later, while reciting the Latin Breviary, I discovered this reading, I realized that the Lord had crafted me with His mercy. Every time I came to Rome, because I lodged in via della Scrofa, I went to the Church of Saint Louis of the French to pray before Caravaggio’s painting, in fact the Vocation of Saint Matthew.

–Q: According to the Bible, the place where God’s mercy dwells is the womb, the maternal insides of God, which are moved to the point of forgiving sin. Can the Jubilee of Mercy be an occasion to rediscover God’s ”maternity”? Is there also a more “feminine” aspect of the Church to appreciate?

–Pope Francis: Yes, He himself affirms it when He says in Isaiah that perhaps a mother can forget her child, a mother can also forget her child … “I, instead, will never forget you.” Here God’s maternal dimension is seen. Not everyone understands when there is talk of “God’s maternity,” it’s not a popular language – in the good sense of the word – it seems a language that is somewhat chosen. Therefore, I prefer to use tenderness, proper to a mother, the tenderness of God, tenderness born from the paternal insides. God is Father and Mother.

–Q: Always with reference to the Bible, mercy makes us know a more “emotive” God than that which we sometimes imagine. Can the discovery of a God who is moved and has compassion for man also change our attitude towards brothers?

–Pope Francis: To discover it will lead us to have a more tolerant, more patient, more tender attitude. In 1994, during the Synod, in a meeting of groups. it was said that a revolution of tenderness should be established, and a Synodal Father  — a good man, whom I respect and love – then very elderly, said that it wasn’t appropriate to use this language and he gave me reasonable explanations, from an intelligent man, but I continue to say that today the revolution is that of tenderness because justice stems from here as does all the rest. If a businessman who takes on an employee from September to July, says to him, with a new contract from September to July, thus the worker has no right to identity, or to a pension, or to social security. He has no right to anything. The businessman doesn’t show tenderness, but treats the employee as an object – so much to give an example of where there is no tenderness. If one puts oneself in the shoes of that person, instead of thinking of one’s need for a bit more money, then things change. The revolution of tenderness is what we have to cultivate today as the fruit of this Year of Mercy: God’s tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say: “I am an unfortunate man, but God loves me thus, so I must also love others in the same way.”

–Q: John XXIII’s “address to the moon” is famous when, one evening, he greeted the faithful saying: “Give a caress to your children.” That image became an icon of the Church of tenderness. In what way will the subject of mercy be able to help our Christian communities to be converted and renewed?

–Pope Francis: When I see the sick, the elderly, a caress comes spontaneously to me. A caress is a gesture that can be interpreted ambiguously, but the first gesture that a mother or father does with the newborn child, is the gesture of “I wish you well,” “I love you,” “I want you to get ahead.”

–Q: Can you anticipate to us a gesture you intend to make during the Jubilee to give testimony of God’s mercy?

–Pope Francis: So many gestures will be made, but on a Friday of every month I will make a different gesture.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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Poor Welcomed Into Vatican for Debut of ‘Call Me Francis’

Film on Life of Pope Francis Before Election Premiered Today in Italian Theatres

 “What am I doing in Rome?” asks an elderly Jorge Mario Bergoglio at the beginning of the film “Call Me Francis,” which is out in Italian cinemas today. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires looks from a terrace at Saint Peter’s Basilica, as he prepares to enter the Conclave, which would then elect him to be Successor of Peter. With a thought-provoking sunset in the background, he reflects: “At my age people retire …”

Weighing on the shoulders of the future Pope, however, is not his age, but rather the anxieties, risks, and battles faced in the course of his life,  especially in Argentina, during the Videla dictatorship and also, ten years later, the obstinate operation of “discarding” the weak and poor.

Scenes that the film, produced by Taodue with Mediaset, show with great intensity, offering a coherent stroke of all that happened in the last 50 years in the life of the Argentine Pope.

The film’s direction had an almost saint-like figure of Bergoglio emerge, who seemed like an Argentine Schindler who,– in the dark years of the military dictatorship (1976-1983), while the people were disappearing, being arrested, tortured, killed – sometimes with the complicit silence of the Church herself –, hid seminarians in his college, defended a judge to the point of hiding her in the baggage compartment of his beetle, had priests liberated, and procured false documents for them to flee to Brazil and Uruguay.

Within very little time, he had climbed the ranks and gained recognition as a national hero.

Side of Jesus

The film clarifies well on what side Bergoglio is. Neither on the right or the left, as he himself clarifies several times in the film, but on “the side of Jesus.” Far from being a political struggle, his was a concrete application of the Gospel. In virtue of which he does not bat an eyelid when, as Provincial, he is sent to Cordoba to be a priest, to “confess between swine and chickens.” In fact in 1992, Cardinal Quarracino came to fetch him there and to communicate to him John Paul II’s decision to appoint him Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, “Delegate” for the priests of the periphery. So, the film recounts his commitment as pastor in favor of the poor and the disinherited, his struggles against the Buenos Aires municipality, which for economic reasons wished to leave hundreds of families homeless.

Bergoglio was always there in the front line, to “fight” with the shantytown priests and their poor, to pull the reluctant Cardinal’s cassock to put his face in front of the television cameras and make him celebrate Mass in the shacks, poor and cops all together.

And also when he has his bag in hand, ready to leave for Rome for the Conclave after Ratzinger’s renunciation, he finds the time to celebrate a marriage in the “periphery.”

“Rome can wait,” he says. “But from Rome, you might never return,” replies the secretary.

It was moving to see, in the last strands of the film the ready fans before the TV that exult with the announcement of Cardinal Tauran of the new Pope’s name. They knew it, they felt in in their heart. “He’s done it!”, exclaims between tears his old collaborator of San Miguel. And then the CTV scene with that historic “Brothers and sisters, good evening!”

Overall, “Call Me Francis” is a moving film. The applause broke out at the close of the film, especially by the 7,000 poor and homeless invited by the Pontiff, accompanied by volunteers and several Roman charitable realities and received by the Papal Almoner, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski.

Distributed to them at the exit was a small bag of provisions. The Musical Band of the Papal Swiss Guard, which usually gives concerts only twice a year – for the oath taking and for Christmas – wished to honor them by performing four musical pieces. Also, a group of Eritreans raised a giant placard in the Hall, between flags of the whole world, which read “Thank you Pope Francis.”

Argentine actor Rodrigo De La Serna, who plays the young Bergoglio (the other is Sergio Hernandez), between various selfies and autograph requests, was able to say to ZENIT: “It’s truly a dream, an indescribable, honorific sensation. I never imagined I would be in the Vatican, much less so interpreting a person that I admire as I do Pope Francis.” 

[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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Imam Joins Dominican Friar in Fight Against Christian Persecution in Pakistan

Decry together the country’s blasphemy laws

This report is contributed by Harold Fickett of Aid to the Church in Need.

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In taking interreligious dialogue to the next level, they make a unique pair: Imam Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, who heads the second largest mosque in Pakistan, with room for 100,000 worshippers—the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore—and Father James Channan, OP, the director of Lahore’s Peace Center. Side-by-side, they are actively fighting the discrimination and persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

Example: when suicide bombers attacked the Youhanabad Christian neighborhood in Lahore—one of the largest Christian communities in South East Asia—and killed 22 people, the imam visited the neighborhood to declare his solidarity, before organizing a massive rally in front of the Badshahi mosque to signal opposition to terrorism, while calling for peace and harmony among different faiths. 

As Father Channan is active organizing Christian-Muslim dialogue throughout the country, the imam focuses on rural Islamic clerics, who are often the instigators of religious violence. In 2004, Imam Abdul Khabir Azad even organized an interfaith conference inside the Badshahi mosque—it was the first time Christians had been invited to speak in the mosque in its 350-year history. 

One of the biggest issues facing Christians in Pakistan is the country’s blasphemy law. The imam and the friar are jointly pushing for reform of the law, so that abuse of the law—to settle personal scores or gain business advantages, with more Muslims than Christians ending up as victims—will be vigorously prosecuted. 

All too often, alleged Christian offenses against the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed trigger mob violence. In one of the worst recent incidents a couple was burned alive in a brick kiln, after the wife was accused of desecrating the Muslim holy book. Both Father Channan and the imam condemned the murders as “barbaric.”

‘My misison’

It is dangerous to speak out against such abuses, but Imam Khabir Azad does so regularly.  “I have received threats for the work that I am doing, but I am not going to give up. It is the need of the hour, and it is my mission,” he told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The imam takes inspiration from Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” which he referred to as his favorite image of Christ. 

Father Channan calls evangelization and interreligious dialogue the “two tracks on which the train of Catholicism runs.” Unlike the goal of evangelization, the aim of interreligious dialogue, the friar explained, is not to convert non-Christians, but to work with those of other faiths for the common good and for the promotion of peaceful co-existence and respect for all faiths. Father Channan, the former Vice-Provinicial for the Dominican order in Pakistan, believes that this process can bring about a “conversion of heart” so that Muslims come to recognize Christians as worthy fellow citizens. 

Father Channan has served as Consultor for both the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (1985-1995) and the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (1999-2004). Father Channan, whom the Pakistani government calls on regularly for advice in religious maters, travels widely as a lecturer on interreligious dialogue. 

The friar has seen many Islamic leaders in Pakistan from a stance of refusing to even share a meal with Christians to one of real friendship—the kind of bond exemplified by the unique relationship of Imam Abdul Khabir Azad and Father Channan. 

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

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Holy See’s Address at OSCE Council on Defending Religious Liberty

‘The Holy See has a particular duty to insist on the centrality of the freedom of religion or belief, not because it ignores other freedoms, but because the freedom of religion or belief is the litmus test for the respect of all other human rights and fundamental freedoms.’

Below is the Vatican-provided text of the address that Secretary for the Vatican’s Relations with States, Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, gave this morning at the 22nd ministerial council of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the theme, ‘In defense of religious liberty’ which begins today and ends tomorrow in Belgrade:

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Mr Chairman,

Participating for the first time at an OSCE Ministerial Council as Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, I would like to begin by presenting to this assembly my greetings and best wishes. I also wish to express the gratitude of the Holy See to the Chairman-in-Office, His Excellency Mr Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, as well as to the entire 2015 Serbian OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office, for its efforts during the course of the year and its generous hospitality in these days.

Since the last Ministerial Council we have witnessed many conflicts and terrorist attacks, both inside and outside the OSCE region, which have resulted in the death and injury of too many human beings. Moreover, in the last year Europe has faced an extraordinary migration of people, fleeing from wars and persecutions, as well as from poverty and exclusion, in areas neighbouring the OSCE region. The Holy See and the Catholic Church remain close to those who suffer and are exposed to violence, not only through pastoral assistance and material support, but also through a commitment to defending human dignity.

In today’s situations of grave conflict and terrorism, I would like to focus particularly on the human dimension of this Organization, since an important aim of the Holy See’s participation in the CSCE/OSCE has always been to promote universal human rights and fundamental freedoms and to encourage peaceful solutions, in dialogue among all concerned. To quote Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who represented the Holy See at the Helsinki Conference: “A Europe of the rights of men and of peoples: this is what must be realised ever more fully. It is already a conviction that spans the continent: respect for human dignity is the greatest good to be pursued” (Speech of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli at the Summit of Head of States and Governments, Paris 1990).

We should note, with deep concern, that in the entire OSCE area, many persons and communities are subject to threats, acts of hostility and violence because of their racial, ethnic or religious identity. The extent of such phenomena and the possibility that they may trigger further violence and conflict on a wider scale, thus undermining the peace and stability of the Region, requires a specific response. The Holy See remains confident that the OSCE and the ODIHR will focus their energy, efforts and resources on pursuing those commitments which have already been made, many of which have yet to be implemented.

Regarding intolerance and discrimination, one of the lessons learned in recent years is that it has become out-dated to talk about minority and majority communities, since the victims may belong to either. In particular, in the case of Christians, it is recognized that they suffer persecution in many countries, but even in countries where they are the majority they may also, in subtle ways, be subject to certain curtailments of their rights. Therefore all forms of religious intolerance and discrimination should be carefully identified and equally addressed.

It is important to recall, in accordance with the indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of human rights, that the commitments on tolerance and non-discrimination cannot be separated from longstanding commitments to freedom of religion and belief. The implementation of the first requires that the latter should also be fully implemented: tolerance, in fact, cannot be an alibi for denying or not guaranteeing religious freedom. On the other hand, tolerance and non-discrimination cannot be used or interpreted in a way that would restrict the freedom of religion or belief or other fundamental freedoms.

The Holy See has a particular duty to insist on the centrality of the freedom of religion or belief, not because it ignores other freedoms, but because the freedom of religion or belief is the litmus test for the respect of all other human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Holy See is convinced that “belief” contributes, for both individuals and communities, to respect for freedom of thought, the search for truth, personal and social justice and the rule of law, all of which are necessary if there is to be a just relationship between citizens, institutions and States.

With regard to the equal rights of men and women, my Delegation firmly believes “that ‘male’ and ‘female’ differentiate two individuals of equal dignity, which does not however reflect a static equality, because the specificity of the female is different from the specificity of the male, and this difference in equality is enriching and indispensable for the harmony of life in society”… “Woman is the complement of man, as man is the complement of woman: man and woman complete each other mutually, not only from a physical and psychological point of view, but also ontologically. It is only because of the duality of ‘male’ and ‘female’ that the ‘human’ being becomes a full reality” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Nos. 146-147). Therefore the Holy See supports those commitments directed to a true and authentic equality between woman and man, many of which still need to be fully implemented.

With regard to the second dimension, the economic and environmental, we should take into consideration that human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself imposes ethical limits, which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. In addition, every creature has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures (cf. Address of the Holy Father at the Meeting with the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, United Nations Headquarters, New York, 25 September 2015).

The abuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. Economic and social exclusion is a denial of human fraternity and a grave offence against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offences: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “throw-away culture”.

Solemn commitments are no longer enough, although they are certainly a necessary step forwards. Our world demands of its leaders a political will which is effective, practical and constant, together with concrete steps and immediate actions for preserving and enhancing the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible, to social and economic exclusion, with its tragic consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.

In the current situation of conflict and terrorism mentioned earlier, the tools of the Organization, designed to defuse conflicts and restore a climate of trust and confidence between the participating States, have been tested in an unparalleled manner. Unfortunately, evidence shows that even the best tools are ineffective, if there is insufficient political will to implement them in good faith and if sincere dialogue is absent. We can only regret that, even recently, non-implementation of valuable tools that the OSCE possesses, such as the Vienna Document or the Code of Conduct, has prevented the emergence of the conditions necessary for the settlement of the ongoing crises.

Attempting to resolve disputes by resorting to the use of arms rather than by a sincere effort to find negotiated solutions is a sad development within our region. Pope Francis stated in his first Message for the World Day of Peace: “I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, n° 7; January 1, 2014).

In consideration of its particular nature and function, the Holy See supports and encourages constructive dialogue in the search for better solutions and instruments for maintaining peace and security. Following with attention the efforts undertaken by the OSCE to consolidate and preserve peace, and sharing the concerns over the deterioration in many sectors of those conditions of trust and security that have constituted the basis of relations and negotiations among participating States over the past years, it is encouraging to note that dialogue on the aspects of security within our organisation has never been interrupted and I am hopeful that it can increase and, with the good will of all involved, become more efficacious.

In the area of disarmament, the Holy See has taken note of the report of the Chairman of the Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) on the activities carried out during 2015. In particular, the Holy See welcomes the achievements in strengthening the security of excessive stockpiles of small arms and light weapons, as well as conventional munitions.

In terms of the non-military aspects of security dealt with by the Security Committee, the Holy See values the efforts of the OSCE in strengthening co-ordination and coherence to address transnational threats, including the fight against terrorism; in combating the threat of illegal drugs and chemical precursors; in promoting a strategic framework for police-related activities; and in furthering measures in the area of cyber security. These have inherent value as a contribution to the protection of the rights of human beings.

In conclusion, I wish to renew to the Serbian Chairmanship my gratitude for its leadership and efforts exercised during this year, while to the incoming German Chairmanship I wish every success and assure the cooperation and support of the Holy See.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

[Original text: English] [Vatican-provided text]

 

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