VATICAN Pope: religious freedom is not an abstract concept, but a concrete right

The appeal of the final document of the Congress of Religious Leaders in Nur-Sultan signed by Francis at the end of the trip. “Man is the path of all religions, that the good of the human being be looked at more than interests.” To the Church of Kazakhstan: “Faith is not a beautiful display of things from the past, but an event that is always current. There is a hidden grace in being a small flock.”

Nur-Sultan () – “Religious freedom is not an abstract concept, but a concrete right”, said Pope Francis in his closing speech at the Congress of Leaders of World Religions that took place in Nur-Sultan. The Pope presented the content of the final document that was signed in this interreligious meeting in Kazakhstan. And one of the highlights of it is the call to ensure that religious freedom is truly safeguarded throughout the world.

“How many people – Francis said – are still persecuted and discriminated against for their faith! We have strongly called on governments and relevant international organizations to support religious groups and ethnic communities that have suffered violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and violence by extremists and terrorists, and also as a result of wars and military conflicts. Let us defend for all the right to religion, to hope, to beauty, to heaven.”

In his speech – the last he gave in Kazakhstan before leaving for Rome – the pontiff reiterated that “the Catholic Church never tires of announcing the inviolable dignity of each person, created ‘in the image of God'”. And expressly citing the words of John Paul II in the encyclical Redemptor hominis, he added that today “man is also the path of all religions. Yes, the concrete human being, weakened by the pandemic, prostrated by war, wounded by indifference. That the good of the human being be looked at more than strategic and economic objectives, more than national, energy and military interests, before making important decisions.”

As for the rest of the contents of the final declaration of the congress, it is stated that extremism, radicalism, terrorism and any other incitement to hatred, hostility, violence and war, whatever the motivation or objective that is they propose have nothing to do with the authentic religious spirit and must be rejected with the most resolute determination” (n. 5). Furthermore, based on the fact that the Almighty has created all people equal, regardless of their affiliation religious, ethnic or social, we have agreed to affirm that mutual respect and understanding must be considered essential and indispensable in religious teaching (cf. n. 13).

Before the final session of the morning congress, in the cathedral dedicated to the Mother of God of Perpetual Help, the meeting with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral agents of the Catholic community of Kazakhstan took place. With them Francis had traced the horizon of a “Church that walks in history between memory and the future”. Memory that does not mean -he specified- “looking back with nostalgia, staying stuck in the things of the past and letting ourselves be paralyzed in immobility. That is the temptation of the “backtracking”. The Christian gaze, when it goes back to remember, what it wants is to open us to amazement before the mystery of God.

And precisely memory reveals that “faith grows with testimony.” “There is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a small flock,” he added. Instead of exhibiting our strengths, our numbers, our structures and any other form of human prestige, we let ourselves be guided by the Lord and humbly approach people.” Small – the Pope concluded – but not self-sufficient: “We need God, but also others, each and every one: sisters and brothers of other confessions, those who profess a religious creed different from ours, all the men and women of goodwill”.

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Written by Editor TLN

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