Relativism Puts Religious Liberty at Risk
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus: Sunday, 4 December
The following is a translation from Italian of the Holy Father's Reflection prior to leading the prayer of the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square on Sunday, 4 December.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this season of Advent, while the Ecclesial Community is preparing for and celebrating the great mystery of the Incarnation, it is invited to rediscover and deepen its own personal relationship with God.
The Latin word "adventus" refers to the coming of Christ and brings to the fore God's movement towards humanity, to which each is called to respond with openness, expectation, seeking and attachment. And as God is sovereignly free in revealing and giving himself because he is motivated solely by love, so the human person is also free in giving his or her own, even dutiful, assent: God expects a response of love.
In these days, the liturgy presents to us as a perfect model of this response the Virgin Mary, whom this 8 December we will contemplate in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception.
The Virgin is the One who continues to listen, always ready to do the Lord's will; she is an example for the believer who lives in search of God. The Second Vatican Council dedicated an attentive reflection to this topic as well as to the relationship between truth and freedom.
Declaration on Religious Liberty
In particular, the Council Fathers approved, precisely 40 years ago, a Declaration on the question of religious liberty, that is, the right of persons and of communities to seek the truth and to profess their faith freely. The first words that give this document its title are "dignitatis humanae": religious liberty derives from the special dignity of the human person. who is the only one of all the creatures on this earth who can establish a free and conscious relationship with his or her Creator.
"It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will..., are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth (Dignitatis Humanae, n. 2).
Thus, the Second Vatican Council reaffirms the traditional Catholic the doctrine which holds that men and women as spiritual creatures, can know the truth and therefore have the duty and the right to seek it (cf. ibid., n. 3).
Having laid this foundation, the Council places a broad emphasis on religious liberty, which must be guaranteed both to individuals and to communities with respect for the legitimate demands of the public order. And after 40 year, this conciliar teaching is still most timely.
Religious freedom is often denied
Religious liberty is indeed very far from being effectively guaranteed everywhere: in certain cases it is denied for religious or ideological reasons; at other times, although it may be recognizable on paper, it is hindered in effect by political power or, more cunningly, by the cultural predomination of agnosticism and relativism.
Let us pray that all human beings may completely fulfil the religious vocation they bear engraved in their being. May Mary help us to recognize in the face of the Child of Bethlehem, conceived in her virginal womb, the divine Redeemer who came into the world to reveal to us the authentic face of God.
Weekly Edition in English
7 December 2005, page 1
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