On 3 April, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, delivered an address at the “Stand Together to Defend International Religious Freedom” symposium in Rome.

Cardinal Parolin said: “Despite so many efforts to promote and reinforce the fundamental human right of religious freedom, we are actually witnessing a continued deterioration, we might even say an assault, of this inalienable right in many parts of the world.”

Although religious freedom is upheld within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Vatican Secretary of State said: “we continue to witness grave violations of this basic fundamental right that often occur with impunity and at times receiving little, if any, attention in the media.”

He continued: “Raising public awareness on the reality of religious persecution, particularly via the rapid means now available with digital media, remains a useful step to address violations of religious freedom.”

The Cardinal stated that religious freedom should not be understood as something that is granted to the person by the State, as opposed to a gift from God. He continued: “Clearly, civil authorities have the obligation to protect and defend religious freedom, but not in the sense of being its author, but rather its custodian.”

Cardinal Parolin cited two primary conceptual forces that threaten the right to religious freedom. These are:

  • Religious intolerance, that “considers any religion or belief outside of one’s own as not merely inferior, but as something that merits being degraded or categorized as second class”.
  • The “New human rights”, that contradict or encroach upon fundamental human rights such as the right to life.

In conclusion, Cardinal Parolin stated: “I would like to reaffirm that the Holy See will continue to be fully engaged in the promotion of religious freedom, as this fundamental right is intimately connected with the protection of conscience and the defense of the human person.”

Read the full address here.

ENDS