Benedict XVI offers step by step instructions in how to put religious freedom into practice in the East and West. Specific requests to the governments of the Middle East, China, Europe and Latin America. No society should deprive itself of the contribution of religious people and communities. The example of Mother Teresa.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Convincing the world that ".authentic and lasting peace… passes through respect for the right to religious freedom in all its fullness”: this, in no uncertain terms, is the dominant intention of Benedict XVI’s address delivered today to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

In an pounding and compelling sequence the phrase "religious freedom" is mentioned 19 times, nearly five times per page, to call "politicians, religious leaders and people of all categories" to commit themselves to seriously implementing it. For this very reason he goes on to lists a series of steps, a sort of primer, which governments (primarily) should put into practice.

As if to answer every objection, and rouse the indifferent and deafness of the world, the Pope cites philosophy and history, to remind people that " is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man", so much so that "man can be called a religious being".

The pontiff asks society "to reject the dangerous notion of a conflict between the right to religious freedom and other human rights, thus disregarding or denying the central role of respect for religious freedom in the defence and protection of fundamental human dignity". In recent years China, Myanmar and Western countries continue to defend themselves against the importance of religious freedom, claiming specific cultural or pragmatic rights ("the right to food and clothing comes first") to push it into last place. At the same time, the pope condemns attempts to set religious freedom against the alleged "new rights" (gay priests, women-priests,. ..) "which are nonetheless merely the expression of selfish desires lacking a foundation in authentic human nature".

Benedict XVI reviews those areas of the world where religious freedom is humiliated, first of all Iraq and Egypt, where the attacks that occurred in Baghdad and Alexandria elicited a chorus of global solidarity. But - unlike international diplomacy - the pope does not merely stop at denouncing terrorism and the shedding of a few tears. He demands that "despite the difficulties and threats," Middle Eastern governments ensure the safety of minorities and full citizenship for Christians, he demands that school textbooks - especially in Saudi Arabia - be purified from hate speech; he asks that where there are Christian immigrant workers (in the UAE or again Saudi Arabia), "the Catholic Church can provide suitable pastoral structures" for their care. With the same clarity, he asks the Pakistani government not to amend, but to "repeal" the notorious blasphemy laws.

He also makes specific requests to China: the pope rejects the "monopoly of the state on society" and calls for “full autonomy of organization and the freedom to carry out their mission, in conformity with international norms and standards in this sphere". And as if to suggest a model to Beijing, Benedict XVI cites the example of Cuba, where after more than 75 years, diplomatic relations with the Vatican have been restored. (Later he also cites the positive experience with Vietnam, where the authorities " have accepted my appointment of a Representative who will express the solicitude of the Successor of Peter by visiting the beloved Catholic community of that country").

The Pope also points his finger at the West where in the name of a false tolerance and pluralism "religion faces a growing marginalization. There is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society"

The pope recalls once again the controversy over religious symbols in public and the ban on displaying the crucifix in public places. He demands - especially in Latin America - the social space for the commitment of Christians in health and education, against laws "that might create a sort of state monopoly on schools".

This step by step implementation of religious freedom has a purpose: "to reaffirm strongly that religion does not represent a problem for society, that it is not a source of discord or conflict." On the contrary, "how can anyone deny the contribution of the world’s great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity".

The Pope implores that "no human society willingly deprive itself of the essential contribution of religious persons and communities! " and cites the example of Mother Teresa that shows " the extent to which the commitment born of faith is beneficial to society as a whole ".

Finally, it is worth recalling the pope words’ to Vatican diplomats: "The activities of the Pontifical Representatives to states and international organizations - he says - is also at the service of religious freedom." Nunzios and Vatican officials are thus not only called to mediate or lessen tensions, but to undertake to guarantee religious freedom for Christians and for all believers.