Pope Benedict XVI condemned “religiously motivated terrorism” and restrictions on religious freedom during his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.
Looking at signs of promise and areas of concern, the pope said human dignity, truth and justice demand governments safeguard all human life and recognise the importance of the traditional family based on the marriage of a man and a woman.
But his strongest words were reserved for religious freedom and religiously motivated violence.
The pope paid tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and government minister for minorities in Pakistan, “whose untiring battle for the rights of minorities ended in his tragic death” when he was murdered last March.
“Sadly, we are not speaking of an isolated case,” the pope told the diplomats in the Apostolic Palace on January 9.
“In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and homes,” he said, mentioning particularly the Christmas Day attacks against churches in Nigeria.
“In other parts of the world,” he said, “we see policies aimed at marginalising the role of religion in the life of society, as if it were a cause of intolerance rather than a valued contribution to education in respect for human dignity, justice and peace.”
Religiously motivated terrorism had also reaped numerous victims, “especially in Asia and in Africa”, he said.
The pope focused on the needs and concerns of the world’s young as he spoke about the global economic crisis, the Arab Spring democracy movement, wars and social tensions.
He expressed his hopes for an end to bloodshed and tensions in South Sudan, Syria, the Holy Land, Iraq and the Great Lakes region of Africa, and urged the nations of the world to take seriously their obligation to protect the environment and fight climate change.
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