Pope: Religious freedom most American of freedoms

2012-01-20 Vatican Radio

The attempts of current cultural trends to curtail the right to religious freedom is a threat not only to “ Christian faith, but also to humanity itself”, said Pope Benedict XVI Thursday, in his address to US bishops from Region’s IV-VI currently on their Ad Limina visit to Rome.

The Holy Father’s speech was given largely to reflections on what he described as the “most American of freedoms, the freedom of religion” and how it must be defended and promoted in today’s society. He said at the heart of every religion and culture is the need for moral good, but that today that moral good is being seriously eroded.

Citing his predecessor, John Paul II, Pope Benedict noted : “When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey… to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society”.

He said the Church has her part to play in the public square and that while the separation of Church and State is legitimate “it cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation”.

Pope Benedict noted that the Church’s defence of her moral teaching, the right of consciencious objection, is not based on “blind faith” but on a rational perspective based in natural law. He warned against the reduction of religious freedom to freedom of worship and said there is a urgent need of a well formed, literate and committed lay Catholic leaders in American society.

He praised the bishops’ efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics committed in political life, “especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights”.

Pope Benedict concluded “No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society”.