The Holy See
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Opatija (Croatia), 20-22 October 2003


Mr President,

We are gathered here because we believe in the importance of human cultural realities, of human communities, of peoples and of nations. The conviction that has brought us together is our faith in the human being, who expresses the best of himself or herself in a culture and thus takes part in the construction of a world that is more just and true because it is more human. We believe in intercultural dialogue and we are convinced of its importance:  in fact, the human being - every human being and all human beings - are enriched when they are open to meeting others with their differences and when they accept cultural expressions other than those of their own culture.

The tragic beginning of the new millennium makes blatantly obvious the dangers of withdrawing into one's own identity and invites the ministers in charge of cultural affairs - and this is the great merit of the project we are discussing - to develop a culture of dialogue between the civilizations in all areas of culture.

As you know, Pope John Paul II has not ceased from the beginning of his Pontificate to travel the world, inviting people to commit themselves to dialogue and to peace, to respect for freedom of conscience and for sharing spiritual treasures. His remarkable initiative, the Interreligious Meetings for Peace which have taken place at Assisi, clearly shows the role of religions in the heart of civil society in building a better world, a world of peace, justice and harmony between peoples.

In continuity with Pope John Paul II and his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Europe, my Delegation would like to repeat before this noble assembly the conviction of the Holy See: "A proper ordering of society must be rooted in authentic ethical and civil values shared as widely as possible by its citizens; at the same time, I would note that these values are the patrimony, in the first place, of the various social bodies. It is important that the institutions and the individual States recognize that these social bodies also include Churches and Ecclesial Communities and other religious organizations. Even more so, in those cases where these already existed before the foundation of European nations, they cannot be reduced to merely private entities but act with a specific institutional import which merits being given serious consideration. In carrying out their functions the various national and European Institutions should act in the awareness that their juridical systems will be fully respectful of democracy if they provide for forms of "healthy collaboration' with Churches and religious organizations" (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, n. 114).

Since the Declaration that we are on the verge of adopting concerns, precisely, intercultural dialogue and its religious dimension, I would like to draw the attention of the assembly to the indispensable dialogue between the civil institutions and the different religions.

In particular, the Holy See strongly hopes that a necessary collaboration with representatives of the religions will be maintained for a just and balanced presentation of these religions in educational programmes. It is easy to imagine the harmful effects that an unfavourable presentation of religions would have on the younger generations.

The Holy See is always happy to collaborate with the member States of the European Cultural Convention through the multiple educational and cultural activities of the Catholic Church, in order to bring about respectful social interaction between men and women, believers and non-believers.

Thank you, Mr President.

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English 2004 n.7 p.10.