Benedict XVI Message for 2011 World Peace Day
"Religious Freedom Expresses What Is Unique About the Human Person"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 -
Here is the the text of Benedict XVI's message for the 44th World Day of
Peace, which will be observed Jan. 1. The theme for the day will be:
"Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace." The Vatican press office released
the message today.
1. at the beginning of the new year I offer good wishes to each and all for
serenity and prosperity, but especially for peace. Sadly, the year now
ending has again been marked by persecution, discrimination, terrible acts
of violence and religious intolerance.
My thoughts turn in a special way to the beloved country of Iraq, which
continues to be a theatre of violence and strife as it makes its way towards
a future of stability and reconciliation. I think of the recent sufferings
of the Christian community, and in particular the reprehensible attack on
the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad, where
on 31 October two priests and over fifty faithful were killed as they
gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass. In the days that followed, other
attacks ensued, even on private homes, spreading fear within the Christian
community and a desire on the part of many to emigrate in search of a better
life. I assure them of my own closeness and that of the entire Church, a
closeness which found concrete expression in the recent Special Assembly for
the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod encouraged the Catholic
communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East to live in communion and
to continue to offer a courageous witness of faith in those lands.
I offer heartfelt thanks to those Governments which are working to alleviate
the sufferings of these, our brothers and sisters in the human family, and I
ask all Catholics for their prayers and support for their brethren in the
faith who are victims of violence and intolerance. In this context, I have
felt it particularly appropriate to share some reflections on religious
freedom as the path to peace. 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
Religious freedom expresses what is unique about the human person, for it
allows us to direct our personal and social life to God, in whose light the
identity, meaning and purpose of the person are fully understood. To deny or
arbitrarily restrict this freedom is to foster a reductive vision of the
human person; to eclipse the public role of religion is to create a society
which is unjust, inasmuch as it fails to take account of the true nature of
the human person; it is to stifle the growth of the authentic and lasting
peace of the whole human family.
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 (cf. Mt 22:37). This is the sentiment
which inspires and directs this Message for the XLIV World Day of Peace,
devoted to the theme: Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace.
A sacred right to life and to a spiritual life
2. The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human
person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked. God
created man and woman in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27). For this
reason each person is endowed with the sacred right to a full life, also
from a spiritual standpoint. Without the acknowledgement of his spiritual
being, without openness to the transcendent, the human person withdraws
within himself, fails to find answers to the heart’s deepest questions about
life’s meaning, fails to appropriate lasting ethical values and principles,
and fails even to experience authentic freedom and to build a just
Sacred Scripture, in harmony with our own experience, reveals the profound
value of human dignity: "When I look at your heavens, the work of your
fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established, what is man that
you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him? Yet you
have made him little less than God, and crowned him with glory and honour.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all
things under his feet" (Ps 8:3-6).
Contemplating the sublime reality of human nature, we can experience the
same amazement felt by the Psalmist. Our nature appears as openness to the
Mystery, a capacity to ask deep questions about ourselves and the origin of
the universe, and a profound echo of the supreme Love of God, the beginning
and end of all things, of every person and people. The transcendent
dignity of the person is an essential value of Judeo-Christian wisdom, yet
thanks to the use of reason, it can be recognized by all. This dignity,
understood as a capacity to transcend one’s own materiality and to seek
truth, must be acknowledged as a universal good, indispensable for the
building of a society directed to human fulfilment. Respect for essential
elements of human dignity, such as the right to life and the right to
religious freedom, is a condition for the moral legitimacy of every social
and legal norm.
Religious freedom and mutual respect
3. Religious freedom is at the origin of moral freedom. Openness to truth
and perfect goodness, openness to God, is rooted in human nature; it confers
full dignity on each individual and is the guarantee of full mutual respect
between persons. 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.
Freedom and respect are inseparable; indeed, "in exercising their rights,
individuals and social groups are bound by the moral law to have regard for
the rights of others, their own duties to others and the common good of
A freedom which is hostile or indifferent to God becomes self-negating and
does not guarantee full respect for others. A will which believes itself
radically incapable of seeking truth and goodness has no objective reasons
or motives for acting save those imposed by its fleeting and contingent
interests; it does not have an "identity" to safeguard and build up through
truly free and conscious decisions. As a result, it cannot demand respect
from other "wills", which are themselves detached from their own deepest
being and thus capable of imposing other "reasons" or, for that matter, no
"reason" at all. The illusion that moral relativism provides the key for
peaceful coexistence is actually the origin of divisions and the denial of
the dignity of human beings. Hence we can see the need for recognition of a
twofold dimension within the unity of the human person: a religious
dimension and a social dimension. In this regard, "it is inconceivable that
believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in
order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in
order to enjoy one’s rights".
The family, the school of freedom and peace
4. If religious freedom is the path to peace, religious education is the
highway which leads new generations to see others as their brothers and
sisters, with whom they are called to journey and work together so that all
will feel that they are living members of the one human family, from which
no one is to be excluded.
The family founded on marriage, as the expression of the close union and
complementarity between a man and a woman, finds its place here as the first
school for the social, cultural, moral and spiritual formation and growth of
children, who should always be able to see in their father and mother the
first witnesses of a life directed to the pursuit of truth and the love of
God. Parents must be always free to transmit to their children, responsibly
and without constraints, their heritage of faith, values and culture. The
family, the first cell of human society, remains the primary training ground
for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and
international. Wisdom suggests that this is the road to building a strong
and fraternal social fabric, in which young people can be prepared to assume
their proper responsibilities in life, in a free society, and in a spirit of
understanding and peace.
A common patrimony
5. It could be said that among the fundamental rights and freedoms rooted in
the dignity of the person, religious freedom enjoys a special status. When
religious freedom is acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is
respected at its root, and the ethos and institutions of peoples are
strengthened. On the other hand, whenever religious freedom is denied, and
attempts are made to hinder people from professing their religion or faith
and living accordingly, human dignity is offended, with a resulting threat
to justice and peace, which are grounded in that right social order
established in the light of Supreme Truth and Supreme Goodness.
Religious freedom is, in this sense, also an achievement of a sound
political and juridical culture. It is an essential good: each person must
be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually
or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private,
in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual
observances. There should be no obstacles should he or she eventually wish
to belong to another religion or profess none at all. In this context,
international law is a model and an essential point of reference for states,
insofar as it allows no derogation from religious freedom, as long as the
just requirements of public order are observed. The international order
thus recognizes that rights of a religious nature have the same status as
the right to life and to personal freedom, as proof of the fact that they
belong to the essential core of human rights, to those universal and natural
rights which human law can never deny.
Religious freedom is not the exclusive patrimony of believers, but of the
whole family of the earth’s peoples. It is an essential element of a
constitutional state; it cannot be denied without at the same time
encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their
synthesis and keystone. It is "the litmus test for the respect of all the
other human rights". While it favours the exercise of our most
specifically human faculties, it creates the necessary premises for the
attainment of an integral development which concerns the whole of the person
in every single dimension.
The public dimension of religion
6. Religious freedom, like every freedom, proceeds from the personal sphere
and is achieved in relationship with others. Freedom without relationship is
not full freedom. 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
Relationship is a decisive component in religious freedom, which impels the
community of believers to practise solidarity for the common good. In this
communitarian dimension, each person remains unique and unrepeatable, while
at the same time finding completion and full realization.
The contribution of religious communities to society is undeniable. Numerous
charitable and cultural institutions testify to the constructive role played
by believers in the life of society. More important still is religion’s
ethical contribution in the political sphere. Religion should not be
marginalized or prohibited, but seen as making an effective contribution to
the promotion of the common good. In this context mention should be made of
the religious dimension of culture, built up over centuries thanks to the
social and especially ethical contributions of religion. This dimension is
in no way discriminatory towards those who do not share its beliefs, but
instead reinforces social cohesion, integration and solidarity.
Religious freedom, a force for freedom and civilization:
dangers arising from its exploitation
7. The exploitation of religious freedom to disguise hidden interests, such
as the subversion of the established order, the hoarding of resources or the
grip on power of a single group, can cause enormous harm to societies.
Fanaticism, fundamentalism and practices contrary to human dignity can never
be justified, even less so in the name of religion. The profession of a
religion cannot be exploited or imposed by force. States and the various
human communities must never forget that religious freedom is the condition
for the pursuit of truth, and truth does not impose itself by violence but
"by the force of its own truth". In this sense, religion is a positive
driving force for the building of civil and political society.
How can anyone deny the contribution of the world’s great religions to the
development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater
respect for human dignity. Christian communities, with their patrimony of
values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and
peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of
democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their
Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not
only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political
life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a
valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice,
integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs. The
exclusion of religion from public life deprives the latter of a dimension
open to transcendence. Without this fundamental experience it becomes
difficult to guide societies towards universal ethical principles and to
establish at the national and international level a legal order which fully
recognizes and respects fundamental rights and freedoms as these are set
forth in the goals – sadly still disregarded or contradicted – of the 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
An issue of justice and civility:
fundamentalism and hostility to believers
compromise the positive secularity of states
8. The same determination that condemns every form of fanaticism and
religious fundamentalism must also oppose every form of hostility to
religion that would restrict the public role of believers in civil and
It should be clear that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in
that both represent extreme forms of a rejection of legitimate pluralism and
the principle of secularity. Both absolutize 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 organize 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 prescind 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.
Whenever the legal system at any level, national or international, allows or
tolerates religious or antireligious fanaticism, it fails in its mission,
which is to protect and promote justice and the rights of all. These matters
cannot be left to the discretion of the legislator or the majority since, as
Cicero once pointed out, justice is something more than a mere act which
produces and applies law. It entails acknowledging the dignity of each
person which, unless religious freedom is guaranteed and lived in its
essence, ends up being curtailed and offended, exposed to the risk of
falling under the sway of idols, of relative goods which then become
absolute. All this exposes society to the risk of forms of political and
ideological totalitarianism which emphasize public power while demeaning and
restricting freedom of conscience, thought and religion as potential
Dialogue between civil and religious institutions
9. The patrimony of principles and values expressed by an authentic
religiosity is a source of enrichment for peoples and their ethos. It speaks
directly to the conscience and mind of men and women, it recalls the need
for moral conversion, and it encourages the practice of the virtues and a
loving approach to others as brothers and sisters, as members of the larger
With due respect for the positive secularity of state institutions, the
public dimension of religion must always be acknowledged. A healthy dialogue
between civil and religious institutions is fundamental for the integral
development of the human person and social harmony.
Living in love and in truth
10. In a globalized world marked by increasingly multi-ethnic and
multi-religious societies, the great religions can serve as an important
factor of unity and peace for the human family. On the basis of their
religious convictions and their reasoned pursuit of the common good, their
followers are called to give responsible expression to their commitment
within a context of religious freedom. Amid the variety of religious
cultures, there is a need to value those elements which foster civil
coexistence, while rejecting whatever is contrary to the dignity of men and
The public space which the international community makes available for the
religions and their proposal of what constitutes a "good life" helps to
create a measure of agreement about truth and goodness, and a moral
consensus; both of these are fundamental to a just and peaceful coexistence.
The leaders of the great religions, thanks to their position, their
influence and their authority in their respective communities, are the first
ones called to mutual respect and dialogue.
Christians, for their part, are spurred by their faith in God, the Father of
the Lord Jesus Christ, to live as brothers and sisters who encounter one
another in the Church and work together in building a world where
individuals and peoples "shall not hurt or destroy … for the earth shall be
full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is 11:9).
Dialogue as a shared pursuit
11. For the Church, dialogue between the followers of the different
religions represents an important means of cooperating with all religious
communities for the common good. The Church herself rejects nothing of what
is true and holy in the various religions. "She has a high regard for those
ways of life and conduct, precepts and doctrines which, although differing
in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that
truth which enlightens all men and women".
The path to take is not the way of relativism or religious syncretism. The
Church, in fact, "proclaims, and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail,
Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6); in Christ, in whom
God reconciled all things to himself, people find the fullness of the
religious life". Yet this in no way excludes dialogue and the common
pursuit of truth in different areas of life, since, as Saint Thomas Aquinas
would say, "every truth, whoever utters it, comes from the Holy Spirit".
The year 2011 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer
for Peace convened in Assisi in 1986 by Pope John Paul II. On that occasion
the leaders of the great world religions testified to the fact that religion
is a factor of union and peace, and not of division and conflict. The memory
of that experience gives reason to hope for a future in which all believers
will see themselves, and will actually be, agents of justice and peace.
Moral truth in politics and diplomacy
12. Politics and diplomacy should look to the moral and spiritual patrimony
offered by the great religions of the world in order to acknowledge and
affirm universal truths, principles and values which cannot be denied
without denying the dignity of the human person. But what does it mean, in
practical terms, to promote moral truth in the world of politics and
diplomacy? It means acting in a responsible way on the basis of an objective
and integral knowledge of the facts; it means deconstructing political
ideologies which end up supplanting truth and human dignity in order to
promote pseudo-values under the pretext of peace, development and human
rights; it means fostering an unswerving commitment to base positive law on
the principles of the natural law. All this is necessary and consistent
with the respect for the dignity and worth of the human person enshrined by
the world’s peoples in the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, which
presents universal values and moral principles as a point of reference for
the norms, institutions and systems governing coexistence on the national
and international levels.
Beyond hatred and prejudice
13. Despite the lessons of history and the efforts of states, international
and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and the many men
and women of good will who daily work to protect fundamental rights and
freedoms, today’s world also witnesses cases of persecution, discrimination,
acts of violence and intolerance based on religion. In a particular way, in
Asia and in Africa, the chief victims are the members of religious
minorities, who are prevented from freely professing or changing their
religion by forms of intimidation and the violation of their rights, basic
freedoms and essential goods, including the loss of personal freedom and
There also exist – as I have said – more sophisticated forms of hostility to
religion which, in Western countries, occasionally find expression in a
denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the
identity and the culture of the majority of citizens. Often these forms of
hostility also foster hatred and prejudice; they are inconsistent with a
serene and balanced vision of pluralism and the secularity of institutions,
to say nothing of the fact that coming generations risk losing contact with
the priceless spiritual heritage of their countries.
Religion is defended by defending the rights and freedoms of religious
communities. The leaders of the great world religions and the leaders of
nations should therefore renew their commitment to promoting and protecting
religious freedom, and in particular to defending religious minorities;
these do not represent a threat to the identity of the majority but rather
an opportunity for dialogue and mutual cultural enrichment. Defending them
is the ideal way to consolidate the spirit of good will, openness and
reciprocity which can ensure the protection of fundamental rights and
freedoms in all areas and regions of the world.
Religious freedom in the world
14. Finally I wish to say a word to the Christian communities suffering from
persecution, discrimination, violence and intolerance, particularly in Asia,
in Africa, in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, a place
chosen and blessed by God. I assure them once more of my paternal affection
and prayers, and I ask all those in authority to act promptly to end every
injustice against the Christians living in those lands. In the face of
present difficulties, may Christ’s followers not lose heart, for witnessing
to the Gospel is, and always will be, a sign of contradiction.
Let us take to heart the words of the Lord Jesus: "Blessed are those who
mourn, for they shall be comforted … Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied … Blessed are you when men
revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely
on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Mt
5:4-12). Then let us renew "the pledge we give to be forgiving and to pardon
when we invoke God’s forgiveness in the Our Father. We ourselves lay down
the condition and the extent of the mercy we ask for when we say: ‘And
forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us’ (Mt
6:12)". Violence is not overcome by violence. May our cries of pain
always be accompanied by faith, by hope and by the witness of our love of
God. I also express my hope that in the West, and especially in Europe,
there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians because
they are resolved to orient their lives in a way consistent with the values
and principles expressed in the Gospel. May Europe rather be reconciled to
its own Christian roots, which are fundamental for understanding its past,
present and future role in history; in this way it will come to experience
justice, concord and peace by cultivating a sincere dialogue with all
Religious freedom, the path to peace
15. The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual
values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for
the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and
Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully
completed. A society reconciled with God is closer to peace, which is not
the mere absence of war or the result of military or economic supremacy,
much less deceptive ploys or clever manipulation. Rather, peace is the
result of a process of purification and of cultural, moral and spiritual
elevation involving each individual and people, a process in which human
dignity is fully respected. I invite all those who wish to be peacemakers,
especially the young, to heed the voice speaking within their hearts and
thus to find in God the stable point of reference for attaining authentic
freedom, the inexhaustible force which can give the world a new direction
and spirit, and overcome the mistakes of the past. In the words of Pope Paul
VI, to whose wisdom and farsightedness we owe the institution of the World
Day of Peace: "It is necessary before all else to provide peace with other
weapons – different from those destined to kill and exterminate mankind.
What are needed above all are moral weapons, those which give strength and
prestige to international law – the weapon, in the first place, of the
observance of pacts". Religious freedom is an authentic weapon of peace,
with an historical and prophetic mission. Peace brings to full fruition the
deepest qualities and potentials of the human person, the qualities which
can change the world and make it better. It gives hope for a future of
justice and peace, even in the face of grave injustice and material and
moral poverty. May all men and women, and societies at every level and in
every part of the earth, soon be able to experience religious freedom, the
path to peace!
From the Vatican, 8 December 2010
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 29, 55-57.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom
Dignitatis Humanae, 2.
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 78.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on the Relation of
the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, 1.
 ID., Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 7.
 BENEDICT XVI, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (18
April 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 337.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom
Dignitatis Humanae, 2.
 JOHN PAUL II, Address to Participants in the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (10 October
2003), 1: AAS 96 (2004), 111.
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 11.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom
Dignitatis Humanae, 1.
 Cf. CICERO, De Inventione, II, 160.
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to Representatives of Other Religions in the
United Kingdom (17 September 2010): L’Osservatore Romano (18 September
2010), p. 12.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on the Relation of
the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, 2.
 Super Evangelium Joannis, I, 3.
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps
in Cyprus (4 June 2010): L’Osservatore Romano (6 June 2010), p. 8;
INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION, The Search for Universal Ethics: A New
Look at Natural Law, Vatican City, 2009.
 PAUL VI, Message for the 1976 World Day of Peace: AAS 67 (1975), 671.
 Ibid., p. 668.
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Cardinal Turkson's Comments on Papal Peace Message 2011
"Religious Freedom ... Has Come Under Great Stress and Threat"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 - Here is the text of the comments made
today by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace, at a press conference for the presentation of Benedict
XVI's message for the 44th World Day of Peace, celebrated on Jan. 1,
The theme of this day is "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace."
* * *
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will celebrate the XLIV World Day of
Peace next year (2011) with a message on religious freedo m. The message
consists of a New Year Greeting, an introductory reference to the attack on
Christians in Iraq, the main body of the message, which presents the sense
of religious freedom and the various ways in which it fashions peace and
experiences of peace, and a concluding reflection on peace as a gift of God
and at the same the work of men and women of goodwill, and , especially, of
Religious Freedom is the theme of the Pope’s Message for the World Day of
Peace not only because that subject matter is central to Catholic social
doctrine; it is also because the living of religious freedom -- a basic
vocation of man and a fundamental, inalienable and universal human right,
and key to peace – has come under great stress and threat:
-- from raging secularism, which is intolerant of God and of any form of
expression of religion;
-- from religious fundamentalism, the politicization of religion and the
establishment of state religions;
-- from the growing cultural and religious pluralism that is being made ever
more present and pressing in our day by globalization (which heightens
interdependence and fashions new forms of relations) and the increased
mobility of people (who run into new cultures and religions). Thus,
differences which should enrich human culture are increasingly being
exploited, especially in the area of religion, to achieve the opposite
effect of impoverishing human culture through intolerance, denial and
negation of the right of religious freedo m.
The Holy Father, in his Message, sees the safeguarding of religious freedom
in our multi-cultural, multi-religious and secularized world as one of the
ways to safeguard its peace.
As you may recall, one of the important tasks that our world set for itself
following the 2nd World War was the formulation, adoption and promulgation
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 1948). Against the
background of intolerant totalitarian ideologies, injustices and evils of
war (hatred), the Universal Declaration was a human rights agenda (a magna
carta) for ensuring tolerance, mutual respect, justice, peace and the common
good of humanity. The 18th Article of the Declaration enshrines religious
freedom: “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, a right
which “includes freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either
alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest
[one’s] religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”!
Pope Benedict XVI praised the Universal Declaration for “enabling different
cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around
a fundamental nucleus of values and hence of rights”, but, he also worried
about the increasing instances of the denial of the universality of these
rights in the name of different cultural, political, social and even
Consider the Lautsi case here in Italy and the Crucifix case in the EU Court
of Human Rights, the case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, the case of Southern
Sudan, Christians in the Middle East, Doctors who are denied license because
they will not terminate pregnancies, denial of aid-packages to developing
countries who object to aid-conditions on religious-moral grounds, and so
So, the Message of Peace of the Holy Father for the year 2011 is set within
this context, and it addresses incidents of the denial of the universal
right of Religious Freedom in the name of culture, religion, politics and
State policies even by nations which are party to the Declaration. These
denials obscure the truth about the human person, disregard people’s
dignity, badly compromise the respect for the other rights, and ultimately
threaten the peace of the world.
3. PRINCIPAL THEMES OF THE MESSAGE
3.1. The Nature of religious freedom. Religious freedom is a “way to peace”
because of what it is essentially. Rooted in the dignity of the human person
(body and spirit), with a vocation to transcendence, religious freedom
expresses that capacity and longing in every person to seek to realize
oneself fully in relationship, opening up to God and to others. It expresses
the search for meaning in life and for the discovery of values and
principles which make life, alone and in community, meaningful. Religious
freedom, ultimately, is the expression of man’s capacity to seek the truth
of God and the truth about himself, as “a maker of an earthly city which
anticipates the heavenly city” of justice, peace and happiness.
3.2. The right to religious freedo m. Religious freedom is not considered a
human right just because the Universal Declaration affirms it. Religious
freedom is not a right granted by a State. Its foundation is not to be found
in the subjective disposition of the person. With the other rights of
man, the right of religious freedom is derived, as Pope John XXIII and
subsequent Church doctrines have taught, from natural law and from the
dignity of the person which are rooted in creation. Rather, the State and
other public institutions, as Pope Benedict XVI recalls in par. 8 of his
Message, need to recognize it as intrinsic to the human person and in its
expressions, as indispensable for its integrity and peace.
3.3. Religious freedom is a duty of public authority (par.10). Although
religious freedom does not need the State or even the Universal Declaration
to establish it, it is not an unlimited right. To ensure that religious
freedom makes for peace and is not abused, as in the case of Pastor Jim
Jones who led a group of believers to their death in Guyana , “the just
limits of the exercise of religious freedom must be determined in each
social situation with political prudence, according to the requirements of
common good.” Cfr. Message no. 10.
3.4. Religious freedom and the search for truth. Religious freedom then, as
the Holy Father recalls in his Message (par. 3), is freedom from coercion
and freedom for the truth: the (religious) truth of seeking the God of man’s
creation, “for what does the soul desire more strongly than the truth?”
It is the absolute truth of God, the longing of man’s soul; and it is this
truth which calls forth the expression of freedom in man (his freewill) to
respond to it. Thus religious freedom does not refer, first and foremost, to
man’s decision or his choice between one and the other religion, although
this can be an expression of it (as in the Universal Declaration). Religious
freedom refers primarily to man’s freedom to express his being capax Dei:
his freedom to respond to the truth of his nature as created by God and
created for life with God without coercion or impediments. It is in this
that man finds his peace, and from there becomes an instrument of peace.
3.5. Religious freedom and identity. Religious freedom does not imply that
all religions are equal. Nor is it a reason for religious relativism or
indifferentism. Religious freedom is compatible with defense of one’s
religious identity against relativism, syncretism and fundamentalism: all
abused forms of religious freedo m.
3.6. Communal dimension of religious freedom. Religious freedom is also an
expression of a person that is at once individual and communitarian (cfr.
Message no. 6). Religious freedom is not limited to the free exercise of
worship. There is a public dimension to it, which grants believers the
chance of making their contribution in building the social order. Let us
recall here the four faith-filled founders/architects of the European Union
(Adenauer, De Gasperi, Schuman and Monnet), the centers of learning and
culture of the Church, the very many developmental, health-care and
educational projects of the Church in mission countries, and so on.
As Pope Benedict XVI would say, the Church’s social doctrine came into being
in order to claim citizenship status for the Catholic religion. Denying the
right to profess one’s religion in public and the right to bring the truth
of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true
development. Similarly, “refusal to recognize the contribution to society
that is rooted in the religious dimension and in the quest for the Absolute
– by its nature, expressing communion between persons – would effectively
privilege an individualistic approach, and would fragment the unity of the
The exercise of the right of religious freedom as a way to peace thus
implies the recognition of the harmony that must exist between the two areas
and forms of life: private and public, individual and community, person and
society. A Catholic (believer) therefore is not only a subject of religious
freedom, but also a member of a “body”. Submitting, therefore, to that body
is not a loss of freedo m. It becomes an expression of fidelity to the
“body”; and fidelity is the development of freedo m.
Furthermore, there is a unity of reciprocal relationship between the
individual and one’s community, a person and one’s society. A person is born
and lives in relationships, and the purpose of community is to promote the
life of a person. Accordingly, the development and the exercise of one’s
religious freedom, is also the task of one’s community. Families and schools
(places of formation) are often the primary agents of formation in religious
freedo m. In multi-cultural and multi-religious communities, schools and
institutions are also the privileged places of training in tolerance and
dialogue in the exercise of religious freedom for peaceful coexistence.
3.7. Religious freedom and dialogue. For Benedict XVI, religious dialogue,
conducted according to charity and truth, is a resource for the common good
(cfr. Message no. 11). Dialogue should be recognized as the means by which
various bodies can articulate their points of view and build consensus
around the truth concerning particular values or goals. It pertains to the
nature of religions, freely practiced, that they can autonomously conduct a
dialogue of thought and life with view to placing their experiences at the
service of the common good. Precisely this dialogue is the objective of
the official dialogue groups in the Church, and even of a small initiative
like the Cardinal Lüstiger Foundation for dialogue with Judais m.  The
same objective can inspire an active dialogue between the free practice of
one’s religion and unbelievers, between faith and reason. “Fruitful dialogue
between faith and reason cannot but render the work of charity more
effective within society, and it constitutes the most appropriate framework
for promoting fraternal collaboration between believers and non-believers in
their shared commitment to working for justice and the peace of the human
3.8. Religious freedom and the State (protection). Although religious
freedom is not established by the State, it (the State) nevertheless, needs
to recognize it as intrinsic to the human person and in its public and
communitarian expressions. This recognition of religious freedom and a
respect for the innate dignity of every person also imply the principle of
the responsibility to protect on the part of the community, society and the
State. “Every State has the primary duty to protect its population from
grave and sustained violations of human rights, …. If States are not able to
guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with
the juridical means provided in the UN Charter and in other international
3.9. Religious freedom is motivated by Solidarity and not Reciprocity. The
Church’s appeals for religious freedom are not based on a claim of
reciprocity, whereby one group respects the rights of others only if the
latter respect the rights of the group. Rather, the appeals for religious
freedom are based on the dignity of persons. We respect the rights of others
because it is the right thing to do, not in exchange for its equivalent or
for a favour granted. At the same time, when others suffer persecution
because of their faith and religious practice, we offer them compassion and
3.10. Conclusion: Religious freedom and the Missionary Charge. The
missionary charge of Jesus to his apostles to go preach his Gospel to the
whole world brings us back to consider the nexus between freedom and truth
in the exercise of religious freedo m. The observation was made above,
referring to St. Augustine , that there is nothing which the soul desires
more strongly than the truth. It was then observed that true freedom desires
the truth, God. All proclamation of the Gospel, as the good news of Jesus
Christ, is an effort to awaken the freedom (religious freedom) of man to
desire and to embrace the truth of the Gospel. This truth of the Gospel,
however, is unique, because it is truth that saves (Mk.16:15-16). It is
different from all other truths, arrived at as a fruit of the cognitive
activity of man. It is as such an offer of unique saving truth that the
Gospel is preached to all creation.
Evangelization and the carrying out of the missionary charge, then, do not
contradict and oppose the sense of religious freedo m. Rather evangelization
stirs up the religious freedom of every person and drives it towards the
truth that saves, in the hope that persons in their religious freedom would
desire it and embrace it. In the embrace of the truth that saves, all
religious freedom enjoys the peace that, on earth, is bestowed “on all on
whom his favour rests”!
 UN Address, 2008.
 Dignitatis Humanae, #2.
 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #422.
 “Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem?” St. Augustine :
Tractatus in Io 26,5.
 Cfr. Dignitatis Humanae.
 Caritas in veritate, #55.
 Caritas in veritate, #56.
 Pope Benedict XVI, UN Address, 2008.
 Cfr. P. Turkson, “The Role of Education in a Multi-Ethnic and a
Multi-Religious Society,” Oasis 6:11, June 2010, pp. 5-9.
 Pope Benedict XVI, UN Address, 2008.
 New York , March 2009.
 Caritas in veritate. #57.
 UN Address, 2008.
Papal Homily on World Day of Peace
We Pray "So the Peace the Angels Proclaimed to the Shepherds on Christmas Eve
Can Reach Everywhere"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2011 .- Here is a translation of the homily given by
Benedict XVI during Mass on Jan.1, Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God,
and the World Day of Peace. The Mass was celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Still enveloped in the spiritual atmosphere of Christmas, in which we have
contemplated the mystery of the birth of Christ, today we celebrate with the
same sentiments the Virgin Mary, whom the Church venerates as Mother of God, in
that she gave flesh to the Son of the eternal Father. The biblical readings of
this solemnity focus primarily on the Son of God made man and on the "name" of
the Lord. The first reading presents to us the solemn blessings that the priests
pronounced on the Israelites in the great religious feasts: It is marked
precisely by the name of the Lord, repeated three times, as though expressing
the fullness and force that derives from that evocation. This text of liturgical
blessing, in fact, evokes the wealth of grace and peace that God gives to man,
with a benevolent disposition toward him, and which is manifested in the
"radiance" of the divine face and is "directed" toward us.
The Church hears these words again today, while asking the Lord to bless the new
year which has just begun, with the awareness that in face of the tragic events
that mark history, in face of the logic of war that unfortunately is still not
surmounted altogether, only God can touch the human soul in its depth and assure
hope and peace to humanity. It is already a consolidated tradition, in fact,
that on the first day of the year, the Church spread throughout the world raises
a joint prayer to invoke peace. It is good to begin a new stage of the journey
placing oneself decidedly on the path of peace. Today we wish to take up the cry
of so many men, women, children and elderly victims of war, which is the most
horrendous and violent face of history. We pray today so the peace the angels
proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas Eve can reach everywhere: "super terram
pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis" (Luke 2:14). That is why, especially with our
prayer, we wish to help every man and all peoples, in particular all those who
have the responsibility of government, to walk ever more decidedly on the path
In the second reading, St. Paul summarizes in filial adoption the work of
salvation carried out by Christ, in which the figure of Mary is set. Thanks to
her the Son of God, "born of woman" (Galatians 4:4), was able to come to the
world as true man, in the fullness of time. This fulfillment, this plenitude,
refers to the past and to the Messianic expectations, which are fulfilled but,
at the same time, it refers also to plenitude in the absolute sense: In the Word
made flesh, God has said his last and definitive Word. On the threshold of a new
year, the invitation thus resounds to walk with joy toward the light of the "day
that shall dawn upon us from on high" (Luke 1:78), as in the Christian
perspective, all time is inhabited by God, there is no future that is not
directed to Christ, and there is no plenitude outside that of Christ.
The passage of the Gospel ends today with the imposition of the name of Jesus,
while Mary participates in silence, meditating in her heart on the mystery of
this Son of hers, who in such a singular way is a gift of God. However, the
evangelical life that we have heard puts in particular evidence the shepherds,
who returned "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen "
(Luke 2:20). The angel had announced to them that in the city of David, namely,
in Bethlehem, the Savior was born and that they would have found the sign: a
child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (cf. Luke 2:11-12).
Leaving hastily, they found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Let us observe how
the evangelist speaks of Mary's maternity beginning from the Son, from that
"child wrapped in swaddling clothes," because it is he -- the Word of God (John
1:14) -- who is the point of reference, the center of the event that is taking
place and it is he who makes Mary's maternity to be described as "divine." This
greater attention that today's readings dedicate to the "Son," to Jesus, does
not reduce the role of the Mother; on the contrary, it places her in the correct
perspective: Mary, in fact, is true Mother of God precisely in virtue of her
total relationship to Christ. Hence, by glorifying the Son, the Mother is
honored, and by honoring the Mother, the Son is glorified. The title "Mother of
God" that the liturgy highlights today underlines the unique mission of the Holy
Virgin in the history of salvation: a mission that is at the base of the cult
and devotion that the Christian people reserve to her. Mary, in fact, did not
receive God's gift for herself, but to bring it to the world: In her fecund
virginity, God gave men the goods of eternal salvation (cf. Collect). And Mary
offers continually her mediation to the People of God, she continues giving
divine life to men, which is Jesus himself and his Holy Spirit. Because of this
she is considered mother of each man born of grace and at the same time is
invoked as Mother of the Church.
It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of men, that since Jan 1, 1968, the
World Day of Peace is celebrated throughout the world. Peace is the gift of God,
as we heard in the first reading: "the Lord ... give you peace" (Numbers 6:26).
This is the Messianic gift par excellence, the first fruit of the charity that
Jesus has given us; it is our reconciliation and pacification with God. Peace is
also a human value to be realized in the social and political sphere, but which
sinks its roots in the mystery of Christ (cf. Vatican Council II, Constitution
Gaudium et Spes, 77-90).
In this solemn celebration, on the occasion of the 44th World Day of Peace, I am
happy to address my deferent greeting to the illustrious Ambassadors to the Holy
See, with my best wishes for their mission. A fraternal and cordial greeting
goes, also, to my Secretary of State and the other heads of dicasteries of the
Roman Curia, with a particular thought to the president of the Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace and his collaborators. I wish to manifest to them
my heartfelt gratitude for their daily commitment in favor of peaceful
coexistence among peoples and the ever more solid formation of a conscience of
peace in the Church and in the world. In this perspective, the ecclesial
community is increasingly committed to work, according to the indications of the
magisterium, to offer a spiritual patrimony certain of the values and principles
of the continuous search for peace.
I wished to remind in my message for today's Day, with the title "Religious
Freedom, the Path to Peace" that "The world needs God. It needs universal,
shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious
contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social
order at the national and international levels." (No. 15). Therefore, I have
underlined that religious freedom "is an essential element of a constitutional
state; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all
fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone (No.
Humanity cannot be resigned to the negative force of egoism and violence; it
must not be accustomed to conflicts that cause victims and put the future of
peoples at risk. Given the threatening tensions of this moment, especially in
face of discriminations, abuses and religious intolerance, which today affect
Christians in a particular way (cf. Ibid., 1), I address once more an urgent
invitation not to yield to discouragement and resignation. I exhort everyone to
pray so that the efforts undertaken by many parties to promote and build peace
in the world will come to a good end. For this difficult task, words are not
sufficient, the concrete and constant commitment is necessary of leaders of
nations, and it is necessary that each person be animated by a genuine spirit of
peace, which must always be implored again in prayer and which must be lived in
daily interaction, in every environment.
In this Eucharistic celebration we have before our eyes, for our veneration, the
image of Our Lady of the Sacred Mount of Viggiano, so loved by the people of
Basilicata. The Virgin Mary gives us her Son, shows us the face of her Son,
Prince of Peace: May she help us to remain in the light of this face, which
shines over us (cf. Numbers 6:25), to rediscover all the tenderness of God the
Father; may she sustain us in invoking the Holy Spirit, so that he will renew
the face of the earth and transform hearts, undoing their hardness before the
disarming goodness of the Child, who was born for us. May the Mother of God
accompany us in this new year; may she obtain for us and for the whole world the
desired gift of peace. Amen.
Vatican Statement on 2012 World Peace Day
"Educating Young People in Justice and Peace"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2011 - Here is the Vatican communique released today to
announce the theme for the 45th World Day of Peace, Jan. 1, 2012, which is
"Educating Young People in Justice and Peace."
* * *
The Holy Father Benedict XVI has chosen the following theme for the celebration
of the 45th World Day of Peace of January 1, 2012: "Educating Young People in
Justice and Peace". The theme engages an urgent need in the world today: to
listen to and enhance the important role of new generations in the realization
of the common good, and in the affirmation of a just and peaceful social order
where fundamental human rights can be fully expressed and realized.
In fact, there is a duty incumbent upon the present generation to prepare future
ones, and creating for them the conditions that will allow these future
generations to express freely and responsibly the urgency for a "new world." The
Church welcomes young people and sees them as the sign of an ever promising
springtime, and holds out Jesus to them as the model of love who "makes all
things new" (Ap. 21,5).
Those responsible for public policy are called to work for the creation of
institutions, laws and environments of life that are permeated by a transcendent
humanism that offers new generations opportunities to fully realize themselves
(e.g. decent job, education etc.) and to build a civilization of fraternal love
directed toward a more profound awareness of truth, freedom, of love and of
justice for all persons.
This, then, is the prophetic dimension of the theme chosen by the Holy Father in
the path of the "pedagogy of peace" indicated by John Paul II in 1985 ("Peace
and Youth Go Forward Together"), in 1979 («To Reach Peace, Teach Peace"), and in
2004 ("An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace").
Young persons must labour for justice and peace in a complex and globalized
world. It is therefore necessary to establish a new "pedagogical alliance" among
all those responsible for the education and formation of young people. The theme
indicates an important area of concern in the teaching of Benedict XVI in
hisMessages for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, beginning with the
need for the truth (2006: "In Truth, Peace"), followed with the reflections on
human dignity (2007: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace"), on the human
family (2008: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace"), on poverty (2009:
"Fighting Poverty to Build Peace"), on the care for creation (2010: "If You Want
to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation"), on religious freedom (2011: "Religious
Freedom, the Path to Peace"), and now talking to the minds and beating hearts of
young people: "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace".