The Church has the right to public expression


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VATICAN CITY, 24 APR 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Charles Ghislain, the new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See.

In his address, the Pope highlighted how "human life and dignity are a precious resource to be defended and promoted resolutely, especially on the basis of natural law". The Church "wishes to be a factor of harmonious coexistence among all peoples. To this end she makes here own active contribution, especially through her numerous educational institutions, her social activities and the commitment of many of her faithful to voluntary work. The Church is happy to serve all sectors of Belgian society".

"Nonetheless", he continued, "it is worth pointing out that the Church, as an institution, has the right to express herself in public. ... She respects the right of everyone to think differently from herself, and would like to see her own right to expression respected. ... The Church, having the common good as her objective, wants nothing other than the freedom to be able to present this message, not imposing it on anyone, and respecting people's freedom of conscience".

The Pope then made mention of the Belgian St. Damian de Veuster, highlighting how "religious roots nourished his education and formation, just as they nourished the teachers who awoke such admirable generosity in him. St. Damian shared his life with marginalised lepers, to the point of himself suffering the illness that afflicted them. With witnesses such as him, everyone can understand that the Gospel is a source of power they need not fear.

"I am convinced", he added, "that despite recent social developments, your land remains rich in Christian soil. This can nurture the generous commitment of growing numbers of volunteers who, inspired by the evangelical principles of fraternity and solidarity, accompany people in difficulties".

Referring then to the country's involvement in Europe, and to the fact that the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy was recently elected as first president of the European Council, the Pope noted how "the art of consensus cannot be reduced to purely dialectic abilities, rather it must seek truth and goodness". This, he explained quoting his own Encyclical "Caritas in veritate", is because "without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present".

In closing his remarks the Holy Father had words of greeting for the bishops of Belgium, especially Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard "who with enthusiasm and generosity has recently begun a new mission as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels". He also greeted priests, deacons and all the faithful who make up the Catholic community in Belgium. "I invite them to bear courageous witness to their faith", he concluded. "In their lives as citizens may they fully exercise their right to propose values that respect human nature, and that correspond to the most profound and authentic spiritual aspirations of the person".