12/04/2005, 00.00
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Pope: Freedom of worship denied and hindered for ideological, religious and political reasons

Benedict XVI drew attention to the 40th anniversary of the declaration Dignitatis Humanae, which upholds freedom of worship as an individual and collective right. He also recalled the dignity of people with disabilities and miners.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI issued a clear reminder about the "individual and collective" right to freedom of worship during today's Angelus, before thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square.

The pope upheld the right of each man to search for the truth and to profess his faith; he recalled the Conciliar Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, 40 years after it was issued.

Forty years on, he said, this conciliar teaching "is still very relevant. In fact freedom of worship is very far from being effectively guaranteed everywhere: in some cases, it is denied for religious and ideological reasons; other times, although recognized on paper, it is hindered in reality by political power or else in a more insidious manner, by the prevalent culture of agnosticism and relativism."

In recent days the Vatican has denounced the violation of freedom of worship in China, particularly the arrest of six priests and violence perpetrated against 16 Chinese nuns in Xian, savagely beaten for having defended a diocesan school from demolition.

Violence for "religious" reasons is reported in Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia and other countries marked by religious fundamentalism. Hostilities due to "agnosticism and relativism" are a reality in the post-Christian west, with the marginalizing of Christians' contribution to society in matters of life, morals and politics.

After the Angelus, the pope recalled that 9 December marks 30 years since the UN declaration about the dignity of people with disabilities. And, addressing Polish pilgrims, he prayed for miners. Today, 4 December, is the feast of St Barbara, their patron.

Here are the words of the pope before the Marian prayer:

"Dear brothers and sisters!

In this time of Advent, the church community, while preparing to celebrate the great mystery of the Incarnation, is invited to rediscover and to deepen its personal relationship with God. The Latin word "advent" refers to the coming of Christ and brings to the fore the movement of God towards mankind, to which each is called to respond with openness, anticipation, searching and compliance. And since God is omnipotently free to reveal and to give himself, because he moved by love alone, so is the human person free to give his due consent: God expects a response of love. In these days, the liturgy presents us with the perfect model of such a response in the Virgin Mary, who we will contemplate in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception this coming Thursday 8 December.

The Virgin is She who is constantly listening, always ready to do the will of the Lord, and she is an example for the believer who lives in search of God. The Second Vatican Council dedicated a careful reflection to this theme as well as the link between truth and freedom. In particular, the Conciliar Fathers approved, precisely 40 years ago, a Declaration concerning the issue of freedom of worship, that is, the individual and collective right to be able to search for the truth and to practice one's faith freely. The first words belonging to the title of this Document are "dignitatis humanae": freedom of worship derives from the singular dignity of man who, among all the creatures of this earth, is the only one able to establish a free and conscious relationship with his Creator. "In accordance with their dignity, all persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will… are impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth." (DH, 2). Vatican II thus upholds the traditional Catholic teaching which stipulates that man, inasmuch as he is a spiritual creature, can know the truth and therefore, he has the duty and the right to seek it (cfr ivi, 3). Having asserted this foundation, the Council insists extensively on freedom of worship, that this should be guaranteed on both individual and collective levels, in respect of the legitimate demands of public order. And this conciliar teaching, after 40 years, is still highly relevant. In fact, freedom of worship is very far from being effectively guaranteed everywhere: in some cases, it is denied for religious and ideological reasons; other times, although recognized in paper, it is hindered in reality by political power or else in a more insidious manner, by the prevalent culture of agnosticism and relativism.

Let us pray that each and every man may be able to fully realize the religious vocation which is inscribed in his very being. May Mary help us to recognize the face of the Child of Bethlehem, conceived in her virginal womb, the divine Redeemer who came to the world to reveal to us the true face of God."

After the Angelus, greeting pilgrims in French, Benedict XVI added: "……Next week, on 9 December, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Rights of People with Disabilities. On this occasion, I invite everyone to work always for the integration of people with disabilities in society, in the world of work, and also in the Christian community, bearing in mind that each human life is worthy of respect and must be protected from the moment of conception to its natural end. To all who are consecrated to this immense work, I assure my support and prayer.

Turning then to pilgrims in Polish, the pope said: "Today we mark the liturgical memory of St Barbara, the patron of miners. I entrust all miners to her protection, as well as their families and their work. I exhort all to live this time of Advent as a time of reflection to prepare the way of the Lord and to bring about the conversion of hearts."

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