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Pontiff: Christians are most persecuted
December 24 2010 £2.40 (Republic of Ireland €3.40)
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BY ANNA ARCO
POPE BENEDICT XVI has said that Christians suffer the most from religious persecution around the world.
At the end of a year that has been marked by violence against Christian minorities across the globe, the Pope dedicated his World Peace Day message to religious freedom.
Referring to Baghdad church massacre on October 31, Pope Benedict said: “It is painful to think that in some areas of the world it is impossible to profess one’s religion freely except at the risk of life and personal liberty. In other areas we see more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility towards believers and religious symbols. At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith.
“Many Christians experience daily affronts and often live in fear because of their pursuit of truth, their faith in Jesus Christ and their heartfelt plea for respect for religious freedom. This situation is unacceptable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity; furthermore, it is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.”
Vatican officials said the Pope was referring to a report by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe which said that 75 per cent of religious people persecuted for their faith were Christian. Officials also said the Pope had consulted inter-governmental, governmental and nongovernmental organisations before writing his World Peace Day message.
Pope Benedict said freedom of religion belonged to “the fundamental rights and freedoms rooted in the dignity of the person”.
Denying or arbitrarily restricting that freedom, he said, fostered a “reductive vision of the human person”, and eclipsing religion’s public role would “create a society which is unjust” because it failed to “take account of the true nature of the human person”.
He said: “For this reason, I implore all men and women of good will to renew their commitment to building a world where all are free to profess their religion or faith and to express their love of God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind.”
In places where religious freedom is denied, the Pope said, human dignity itself is offended, which results in a threat to justice and peace.
Benedict XVI equated the right to religious freedom with the right to life. He said: “Religious freedom should be understood then, not merely as immunity from coercion, but even more fundamentally as an ability to order one’s own choices in accordance with truth.”
A Nativity scene made by craftsmen in Guanajuato, Mexico, displayed at the Vatican Museums
Echoing a theme he has touched on in speeches made in France, the Czech Republic and in his address to civil society in Westminster Hall earlier this year, Pope Benedict went on to defend the place of religion in the public sphere.
He said: “Religious freedom is not limited to the individual dimension alone, but is attained within one’s community and in society, in a way consistent with the relational being of the person and the public nature of religion.”
Pope Benedict XVI, who issued his annual peace message for
January 1 two weeks before Christmas, said both religious fundamentalism and aggressive secularism represented extreme forms of a “rejection of legitimate pluralism and the principle of secularity”.
He said: “Both absolutise a reductive and partial vision of the human person, favouring in the one case forms of religious integralism and, in the other, of rationalism. A society that would violently impose or, on the contrary, reject religion is not only unjust to individuals and to God, but also to itself. God beckons humanity with a loving plan that, while engaging the whole person in his or her natural and spiritual dimensions, calls for a free and responsible answer which engages the whole heart and being, individual and communitarian.
“Society too, as an expression of the person and of all his or her constitutive dimensions, must live and organise itself in a way that favours openness to transcendence. Precisely for this reason, the laws and institutions of a society cannot be shaped in such a way as to ignore the religious dimension of its citizens or to pre
CNS photo/Paul Haring scind completely from it. Through the democratic activity of citizens conscious of their lofty calling, those laws and institutions must adequately reflect the authentic nature of the person and support its religious dimension. Since the latter is not a creation of the state, it cannot be manipulated by the state, but must rather be acknowledged and respected by it.”
Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Department, said that it was not an exaggeration to compare aggressive secularism with religious fundamentalism.
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Holy See’s ambassador in Moscow is named nuncio to Great Britain
BY ANNA ARCO
RUSSIA’S current nuncio has been chosen to replace the Holy See’s outgoing ambassador as papal nuncio to Britain in the New Year.
Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who serves as papal ambassador to the Russian Federation and is Italian, will take up his new post early next year. He will replace the outgoing nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, and will oversee key appointments to episcopal posts in England and Wales.
In the next five years he is likely to propose candidates for the Archdiocese of Cardiff, which is currently empty, as well as the dioceses of Brentwood, Portsmouth, Wrexham, Hallam and Plymouth, where the bishops are coming up for retirement.
The new appointee was sent to Moscow in 2003 after having served as nuncio in Bulgaria and diplomatic attaché in Turkey and Uganda.
According to reports, Archbishop Mennini has a reputation for being a “discreet diplomat” who was widely credited with improving the Vatican’s relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Relations between the two communions cooled considerably in 2001 after John Paul II established Catholic dioceses in Russia, a move which was seen as an act of aggression by Russian Orthodox leaders.
But a growing rapprochement led to President Dmitry
Medvedev meeting the Holy Father in Rome in 2009 and promising to establish full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Last summer, the states assumed full diplomatic relations and Archbishop Mennini became the first Apostolic Nuncio to have his credentials recognised by Russia.
His predecessor as nuncio to Britain, Archbishop Sainz Muñoz, resigned because of ill health.
Santa Claus is not real, says archbishop
Vatican calls Chinese action ‘unacceptable’
BY ED WEST
CHILDREN should not confuse celebrating the birth of Christ “with a fat man dressed in red”, an archbishop in Argentina has said.
Archbishop Fabriciano Sigampa of Resistencia surprised parishioners by telling children that Father Christmas did not exist at a Mass in the northern city.
“That’s not Christmas,” he said, after complaining about plans for a snow-covered cabin in the city’s square where Father Christmas would hear children’s wishes and receive donated toys to be given to poor children.
He said: “Surely, in the coming days there will be a deluge of advertisements after they inaugurate the house where a fat man dressed in red lives. And we should not confuse Christmas with that.”
He said children “should know that, in reality, the gifts come from the efforts of their parents and with the help of Jesus”.
BY CAROL GLATZ
IN AN unusually strongly worded statement, the Vatican has said the election of Church leaders by government-controlled Catholic groups in China and the illicit ordination of a Chinese bishop have “unilaterally damaged” hopes of improved relations with China. While expressing its wish to engage in honest dialogue with Chinese authorities, the Vatican said the events were “unacceptable and hostile” and had caused “a grave loss of the trust that is necessary for overcoming the difficulties and building a correct relationship with the Church for the sake of the common good”.
A communique issued by the Vatican press office criticised the government-controlled National Congress of Catholic Representatives held in Beijing this month. It said the methods of convoking the assembly reflected “a repressive attitude with regard to the exercise of religious liberty, which it was hoped had been consigned to the past in present-day China”.
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