07/18/2008, 00.00
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Pope: Religious freedom for well-being of society

Benedict XVI has met with representatives of the Christian Churches and of the religions present in Australia, which he praised for its protection of religious freedom. The common effort of the religions to uphold the dignity of the human person and respect for creation. Teaching young people to seek the meaning of life.

Sydney (AsiaNews) - Great praise for Australia, which has always guaranteed religious freedom, but above all a request for all religions to work together for the good of the world, and for the formation of young people, encouraging them "to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential".

This morning, Benedict XVI first of all met with the members of the Christian Churches present in Australia: Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Maronite, Melkite, Syrian; members of the Assemblies of God and of the Uniting Church; he then held a meeting with representatives of 40 religious groups: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and Sabians.

The meeting with the Christians took place in the cathedral crypt. In his address, the pontiff emphasised the importance of frankness in ecumenical relations, and proposed this Pauline Year as an opportunity to mature in the understanding of the Eucharist, of mutual service, and of Church unity, keeping theory and practice together.

He emphasised the importance that the "majestic land" of Australia gives to religious freedom.

"This", the pontiff explained, "is a fundamental right which, when respected, allows citizens to act upon values which are rooted in their deepest beliefs, contributing thus to the well-being of society. In this way, Christians cooperate, together with members of other religions, for the promotion of human dignity and for fellowship among all nations".

In his meeting with the representatives of other religions, the pope praised Australia in a similar way, for its respect of religious freedom, permitting religion to influence social life:

"In a world threatened by sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people urges nations and communities to resolve conflicts through peaceful means and with full regard for human dignity".

The pontiff stressed that "the religious sense planted within the human heart opens men and women to God and leads them to discover that personal fulfilment does not consist in the selfish gratification of ephemeral desires". It is precisely this that "leads us to meet the needs of others and to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common good", a service that requires " sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the world’s goods". In this way, "men and women are led to regard the environment as a marvel to be pondered and respected rather than a commodity for mere consumption. It is incumbent upon religious people to demonstrate that it is possible to find joy in living simply and modestly, generously sharing one’s surplus with those suffering from want".

Benedict XVI said that these values are "particularly important to the adequate formation of young people, who are so often tempted to view life itself as a commodity". For this reason, he requested an ever greater collaboration among religions in educating young people. "May we encourage everyone" he concluded, "especially the young, to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential!".

At the end of the morning's events, Benedict XVI had lunch in the reception hall of the residence, together with Cardinal George Pell and twelve young people from various continents.

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