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SUB- commission for Religious freedom





Preliminary Note

1. Observations on the current context

2. The perspective of Dignitatis Humanae in its Time and Today

Before the Second Vatican Council
Salient points of Dignitatis Humanae
Religious freedom after the Second Vatican Council
On the threshold of renewal

3. The Right of the Person to Religious Freedom

The Discussion on the Theoretical Foundations
Dignity and Truth of the human person
Being a person inherent in the human condition
The mediation of the conscience

4. The Right of the Community to Religious Freedom

Social dimensions of the human person
Subsidiarity and the foundational narrative
Integral Education and incorporation into the community
The value of intermediate bodies and the State
The State, the web and communities of conviction

5. The State and Religious Freedom

Christianity and the Dignity of the State
The ‘Monophysite’ Drift regarding relations between Religions and the State
The ‘liberal’ reduction of religious freedom
The ambiguity of a morally neutral State

6. The contribution of religious freedom to conviviality and social peace

Religious freedom for the good of all
Conviviality has the quality of the good
The right discernment of religious freedom
Extensions of religious freedom

7. Religious freedom in the mission of the Church

The free witness of the love of God
The Church proclaims religious freedom to all
Interreligious dialogue as a path to peace
The courage of discernment and the rejection of violence in the name of God






Preliminary Note

In the course of its IXth Quinquennium, the International Theological Commission studied the theme of religious freedom in the context of the world today. This study was carried out by a sub-committee chaired by the Rev. Javier Prades López and was comprised of the following members: Rev. Željko Tanjic´, Rev. John Junyang Park, Prof. Moira Mary McQueen, Fr Bernard Pottier, S.J., Prof. Tracey Rowland, Mons. Pierangelo Sequeri, Rev. Philippe Vallin, Rev. Koffi Messan Laurent Kpogo, Fr Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P.

The theme of religious freedom was discussed during the meetings of the Subcommittee and on the occasion of the Plenary Sessions of the same Commission between 2014-2018. The present form of this text was approved by a majority of the members of the International Theological Commission during the Plenary Session in 2018. His Eminence Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria S.J., Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, after receiving the approval of the Holy Father Francis, approved and authorised the publication of this document on March 21, 2019.

Theological approaches and contemporary challenges

1. Observations on the current context

1. In 1965 the Conciliar Declaration Dignitatis humanae was approved in an historical context markedly different from that of today. This is also true of the theme that constituted the central argument of the document, namely that of religious freedom in the modern world. Its courageous development of the Christian reasons for respecting the religious freedom of individuals and communities within the framework of the rule of law and the practices of justice in civil societies, still evokes in us a certain admiration. This contribution of the Council that we might call prophetic, has given to the Church a credible perspective and an appreciation favouring her evangelical witness in contemporary society.

2. Meanwhile, the prominent role recently taken by protagonists of religious and national traditions in the Middle East and in Asia has significantly changed the perception of the relationship between religion and society. The great religious traditions of the world no longer appear as simple relics of an ancient past, or as pre-modern cultures outdated by history. The different forms of religious affiliation influence anew the composition of personal identity, the interpretation of social ties, and the pursuit of the common good. In many secularised societies the various forms of religious community continue to be perceived socially as important factors of mediation between individuals and the State. The relatively new element in the modern configuration of these models can be recognised by the fact that today one feels obliged to consider the relevance of religious communities – directly or indirectly – in relation to a liberal-democratic model of the State, and in relation to rights and to the technological and economic direction of civil society.

3. Wherever in the world the problem of religious freedom arises, this concept is discussed in reference to – be it positive or negative – a conception of human rights and civil liberties that is associated with a political culture that is liberal, democratic, pluralistic, and secular. The humanist rhetoric that appeals to peaceful conviviality, individual dignity, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue, is expressed in the language of the modern liberal State. On the other hand, more profoundly, is the reflection drawing upon Christian principles of the dignity of the person and the close connections between human beings. This has contributed to the formation and universalisation of such language.

4. Today’s religious radicalisation that is known in diverse political cultures as “fundamentalism”, is not the simple return to a more “observant” practice of traditional religion. This radicalisation is often characterised by a specific reaction against certain liberal concessions of the modern State. In particular, it is a reaction against the relativistic ethic and indifference of the State with regard to religion. For others the liberal State appears guilty for the opposite reason. Whilst the State proclaims neutrality it seems unable to avoid the tendency to consider professed faith and religious affiliation as an obstacle for the full admission of the individual to cultural and political citizenship. One could describe this as a form of “soft totalitarianism”, that renders it particularly vulnerable to the spread of a nihilistic ethic in the public domain.

5. The alleged neutrality of a political culture which declares that it wants to build on the formation of purely procedural rules of justice, by removing all ethical justification and all religious inspiration, shows the tendency to develop an ideology of neutrality which, in fact, imposes the marginalisation, if not exclusion, of religious expression from the public sphere and with that the full freedom to participate in the formation of democratic citizenship. From here arises the discovery of the ambiguity of the public sphere’s claims to neutrality and of an objectively discriminatory civic freedom. A civic culture that defines its own humanism by side-lining the religious component of human reality is forced to also sideline decisive areas of its own history: its own knowledge, its own tradition, its own social cohesion. The result is the removal of the more consistent aspects of humanity and of citizenship from which the same society is formed. The reaction to the human weakness of the system appears to justify for many (especially the young) the path to a hopeless fanaticism. This fanaticism can be either atheistic or theocratic in nature. Until recently, this incomprehensible attraction to violence, totalitarian political ideology, or religious militancy, was regarded as something of the past. Today these problems must be addressed with greater attention.

6. In opposition to the classic thesis which anticipated the demise of religion as an inevitable effect of technical and economic modernisation, we are talking today of a return of religion to the public arena. The automatic correlation between civil progress and the extinction of religion was formulated upon an ideological prejudice that saw religion as a mythical construction by a society that had not yet mastered the rational tools capable of achieving emancipation and prosperity for itself. This theory is recognised as inadequate, not only in relation to the true nature of religious consciousness, but also in reference to a naïve faith in the humanistic possibilities of technological modernisation. Nonetheless, it is precisely theological reflection that has helped to clarify, in recent decades, the strong ambiguities within what has been hastily designated as a return to religion. This so-called “return”, in fact, presents aspects of “regression”, with regard to personal values and democratic conviviality. Such realities are at the foundation of the humanistic conception of the political order and social bonds. Many of the phenomena associated with the new presence of the religious factor in the political and social sphere appear quite heterogeneous – not to say contradictory – compared to the authentic tradition and the cultural development of the great historical religions. New forms of religiosity, cultivated in the furrows of arbitrary contaminations between the search for psycho-physical wellbeing and the pseudo-scientific constructions of a world vision, appear to those same believers as disturbing deviations from a religious orientation. This is to say nothing of the gross religious motivation of certain forms of fanatic totalitarianism that seek to impose ideology through terrorist violence, even within the great religious traditions.

7. The on-going post-modern removal of the commitment to truth and the transcendent certainly poses in new terms the theme of religious freedom in both a political and juridical context. On the other hand, there are the theories of the liberal State that consider the commitment to truth as radically independent of any religious contribution. They conceive of this commitment as vulnerable to the pressures of religious forms – or of pseudo-religiosity – which seek to affirm themselves in the public space outside of the rules of a respectful cultural dialogue and civil democratic debate. The safeguarding of religious freedom and of social peace, presupposes a State that not only develops reasons for reciprocal cooperation between religious communities and civil society, but is capable of creating a culture open to religion. Civic culture must overcome the prejudice of a vision of religion that is purely emotional or ideological. Religion in its turn, must seek to explain clearly its own vision of the conviviality of peoples.

8. Christianity – specifically Catholicism with the warrant of the Second Vatican Council – has developed a line of thinking regarding its own religious identity that repudiates every attempt to instrumentalise political power as a certain type of proselytism. Today, evangelisation values the context of religious freedom and civic responsibility positively. Christianity interprets this historical moment as socially and culturally favourable to an appeal to faith. This appeal is not to be confused as an imposition, or the chance to reduce man to a state of subjection. The proclamation of religious freedom and the witness of transcendent truth that does not impose by force, must appear profoundly connected to the inspiration of faith. By its nature, Christian faith is open to a positive interaction with the human understanding of truth and goodness. The history of culture carries this as a light in the life and thoughts of people. The freedom to search for the words and signs of the truth of God, and the passion for brotherhood among men, always go together.

9. Recent transformations of the religious scene as well as the culture of social and political life, confirm – as if it were necessary – that the relations between these two aspects are profoundly and vitally important for the quality and survival of the conviviality of humanity. From this perspective, the search for more suitable structures that better guarantee the free and peaceful interaction of political and social life, are decisive factors of the common good and the historical progress of human civilisations. The massive migration of entire peoples, whose lands are rendered hostile to life and to the prospect of conviviality, (due mostly to the endemic state of poverty and the permanent cycle of war) have created within the West societies that are structurally interreligious, intercultural, and interethnic. Because of this emergency, is not now the time to propose a true and real creation of a new future? Is not now the time to construct new relationships between religious freedom and civil democracy? Should the treasure of culture and faith, inherited over the centuries not generate a true humanism capable of responding to the call for a more habitable planet?

10. Noting the “signs of the times” to come, and what has already occurred, it is necessary to adopt the tools capable of assisting Christian reflection, religious dialogue, and civil discussion. Resignation regarding the difficulty and complexity of certain current involutions would be an unjustifiable weakness with regard to the responsibility of faith. The link today between religious freedom and human dignity is politically important. A believing church that lives in a pluralistic and multicultural society must develop skills suited to the new existential conditions for the witness of faith. These conditions are not so different from those that the Church was first called to sow and flourish.

11. This document begins by recalling the Conciliar Declaration Dignitatis humanae, and its reception in the magisterium and theology after the Second Vatican Council (cf. Ch. 2). Next, we consider the philosophical and anthropological principles of religious freedom. We investigate both the individual and communitarian dimension of religious freedom, (cf. Ch. 3) underlining the value of religious communities as intermediary bodies in society (cf. Ch. 4). In reality these two aspects are inseparable. However, since the roots of religious freedom in the personal condition of man indicate the ultimate foundation of his dignity as inalienable, we continue our study from this perspective. Successively, we consider religious freedom with regard to the State, clarifying the contradictions inherent in the ideology that regards it as religiously and ethically neutral. (cf. Ch. 5). The final chapters focus on the contribution of religious freedom with respect to conviviality and social peace (cf. Ch. 6), concluding with the centrality of religious freedom for the Church’s mission today. (cf. Ch 7).

12. We do not intend to propose an academic text providing an erudite analysis of every aspect concerning the debate on religious freedom. This is due to the complex nature of the theme, whether it is from the interconnection between personal and social life, or from the point of view of the interdisciplinary perspectives regarding religious freedom. Our methodological choice can be synthesised as a theological-hermeneutical reflection in two ways: (a) First, it suggests a reasonable renewal of the reception of Dignitatis humanae. (b)  Secondly, it presents the reasons of a just integration – anthropological and political – between the personal and communal application of religious freedom. The need for this clarification depends upon the necessity that the same social doctrine of the Church must consider the historical facts relevant to the new global experience. 

13. The absolute ethical-religious indifference of the State renders civil society ill-prepared for the discernment required for the application of a truly liberal and democratic right, capable of holding effectively to the common forms that interpret social bonds in view of the common good. At the same time, a correct elaboration of religious freedom in the public square, calls upon Christian theology to reflect deeply about the cultural complexity of society today. This reflection should theoretically barricade the regression to a theocratic perspective in relation to the common good. The common thread of our reflection is the relationship between the theological and anthropological perspective that flows from personalistic principles of a communal and Christian notion of religious freedom for all. This document has no pretension of being a systematic “treatise”. Therefore we do not seek to elaborate complicated and theoretical categories of a political and ecclesiological nature. It is recognised by all that many of these categories are exposed to the vicissitudes of meaning, either due to diverse cultural contexts of usage or varying ideological references. Noting these objective limits contained within the subject matter itself, this renewed reflection seeks to improve both the understanding of the subject and the transmission of the Christian witness. This reflection should enrich ecclesial awareness with regard to the just respect of the humanistic values of the faith. It can also respond to conflicting interpretations of the doctrine of the State, calling for a new conception of the relationship between civil society and religious adherence. This reflection is not simply theological, but also anthropological and political.

2. The perspective of Dignitatis Humanae in its Time and Today

This chapter discusses the significance that the Council Fathers gave to religious freedom as an inalienable right of every person. We evaluate the magisterial teaching, considering the position of the Church before the Second Vatican Council and the recent post-conciliar reception of the Church’s magisterium.

Before the Second Vatican Council

14. The declaration of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom reveals a certain maturation of the Magisterium’s understanding of the nature of the Church in relation to the juridical form of the State.[1] The history of the document demonstrates the essential elements of the development of the doctrine. This development reflects substantial political and social changes that transformed the conception of the state and its relationship with religious traditions, civil culture, order of law, and the human person.[2] Dignitatis humanae attests to a substantial progress in the Church’s understanding of these relationships and the need for a more profound understanding of the faith, one that recognises the necessary progress in the explication of the doctrine. This better understanding of the nature of Christian faith and its implications (drawing upon the roots of Revelation and of the ecclesial tradition) created a new perspective and attitude with regard to certain inferences and applications of the preceding magisterium.

15. In the past, a certain ideological configuration of the State, interpreting the modernity of the public sphere as an emancipation from the religious sphere, provoked the Magisterium to condemn freedom of conscience, understood as legitimate indifference and subjective arbitrariness vis-à-vis ethical and religious truth.[3] The apparent contradiction between the claim of ecclesial freedom and the condemnation of religious freedom needed to be clarified and overcome. It was necessary to take into consideration the new concepts that defined the field of civic consciousness: legitimate autonomy of temporal realities, the democratic justification of political freedom, and the ideological neutrality of the public sphere. The early reaction of the Church can be explained within an historical context where Christianity represented the State religion and was the de facto dominant religion within western society. The aggressive establishment of a State secularism which repudiated the Christianity of the community was first theologically read as a sort of “apostasy” from the faith, rather than as a “legitimate separation” between Church and State. The evolution of this secular push essentially favoured two developments within the Church. One was a better self-awareness of the authority of the Church in the context of political power. The other was a progressive nuance and development of the reasons for the Church’s freedom within the framework of the fundamental freedoms of the human person.[4]

16. St. John XXIII opened the way to the Second Vatican Council in this new and dynamic path between ecclesial rights and human rights. In Pacem in terris, he described the rights and responsibilities of people from the perspective of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He taught that the conviviality of men must be carried out in freedom since, “it is evident that a man has the inherent right not only to be given the opportunity to work, but also to be allowed the exercise of personal initiative in the work he does.”[5] Freedom favours the dynamic of human conviviality throughout history and finds its authentication in the order of creation as desired by God. Man’s vocation to life is found within his God given capacity to seek the truth with his own intelligence, choose the good with his own will, and assent wholeheartedly to the divine promise of salvation, a promise of God’s love that redeems and completes man. Man’s disposition to freedom must be defended from every type of abuse, intimidation, or violence.[6]

The salient points of Dignitatis Humanae

17. We now turn to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, albeit in brief. ‘The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right’. (DH 2a) Dignitatis humanae proposes four arguments to justify the belief that religious freedom is a right founded upon the dignity of the human person (cf. DH 1-8). These arguments are fully revealed by the light of divine revelation, (cf. DH 9-11) freely welcomed in the act of faith, (cf. DH 10) and clarified by the reflections of the Church (cf. DH 12-14).[7]

18. The first argument is the integrity of the human person, that is, the impossibility of separating one’s internal freedom from its public manifestation. This right to freedom is not a subjective fact but arises ontologically from the nature and the basic vocation by which every human being is a person, endowed with reason and will, by virtue of which he is called to come into a relationship with goodness, truth and justice, which implies it existentially. This intrinsic vocation of the human being is in accord with the original divine design whereby men and women, open to the transcendent, are created as capax Dei. This is the radical and ultimate foundation of religious freedom (cf. DH 2a, 9, 11, 12). The central point is that the sanctity of each individual’s freedom cannot be forced or humiliated in the exercise of authentic religion. Every single person must respond by his actions in a responsible manner, with the seriousness of one’s conscience freely directed toward the good in the search for truth and justice. (Cf. DH 2, 4, 5, 8, 13).

19. The second argument is intrinsic to the duty to seek the truth. This argument demands and presupposes dialogue between human beings in accord with their nature as social beings. Religious freedom, far from evacuating the importance of the social bond, remains the shared condition of a search for truth worthy of man. The value of dialogue is decisive since ‘the truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly with power’. (DH 1c). The dialogue implemented by this research will allow everyone, without discrimination, to expose and argue the truth received and discovered, in order to recognise its importance for the entire human community (cf. DH 3b).[8] Religious freedom is not restricted to the individual alone but involves the whole community and in a particular way the family. Here we recall the necessity of exercising that freedom in the transmission of religious values through education and teaching (cf. DH 4, 5, 13b). With regard to the family and parents, it is stated: ‘The family, since it is a society in its own original right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education their children are to receive. Civil powers, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of school and other means of education’. (DH 5A)

20. The third argument derives from the nature of religion and from the nature of man as homo religiosus. This recognises men and women as social beings, who live and manifest in society this religiosity by internal acts and public worship.[9] The right to religious freedom is lived out in a relationship to God. Free exercise of this relationship in society must be immune from any external coercion that would impinge upon this freedom (cf. DH 2, 3c-e, 4, 10, 11, 13). Civil and political authorities, whose real task is the care of the temporal common good, have no right whatsoever to interfere in questions related to the domain of personal religious freedom. This is due to the intangible nature of one’s conscience as an individual. The State must also respect the public manifestation of one’s religious freedom as long as it does not impact negatively on the just public order of society, based, in any case, on proven facts and correct information. (cf. DH 1, 2, 5).

21. Finally, the fourth argument concerns the limits of purely human, civil and legal power, in matters of religion. Religion itself must also be fully aware of the legitimacy or not of its public manifestation. Indeed, the clarification of the limits of religious freedom, with a view to the safeguarding of justice and peace, are integral parts of the common good (cf. DH 3, 4, 7, 8) and involves the believers themselves. (cf. DH 7, 15).

Religious Freedom after the Second Vatican Council

22. With the principle of religious freedom now clearly defined as the civil right of the citizen and of groups to live and manifest the inherent religious dimension of man, the Council Fathers still left this subject of religious freedom open for further study and reflection. We have underlined the foundations that Dignitatis humanae favours for a maturation of the points that emerge from the conciliar document. Indeed, even today ‘there are regimes, where, although the freedom of religious worship is recognised in the Constitution, the public authorities themselves endeavour to divert citizens from professing religion and to make the lives of such religious communities difficult and precarious. Greeting with joy the favourable signs offered by our time, but denouncing with sadness these deplorable facts, the Council exhorts Catholics, but also urges all men to examine with the greatest care how much religious freedom is necessary, especially in the present condition of the human family’. (DH 15b-c). Fifty years on new threats against religious freedom have acquired global dimensions. These threats place various moral values at risk, as well as the interpretation of the important international speeches, discourses, and teachings of the papal magisterium.[10] The Popes of our time clearly indicate that this theme (as the more profound expression of freedom of conscience) poses anthropological, political, and theological questions regarding the fate of the common good and peace between peoples of the world.

23. For Saint Paul VI the right to religious freedom is a matter linked to the truth of the human person. Gifted with both intellect and will, man has a spiritual dimension that makes him capable of entering into temporal and transcendent relationships.[11] The truth of man is revealed as he seeks to cross the limits of temporality, toward the recognition of his being created by God. Recognising this, man as a believer is called to participate in the divine life. This religious dimension is rooted in his conscience, and his dignity consists precisely in corresponding to the truth of moral imperatives and in dialoguing with others. In today’s context this dialogue also involves other religions. Dialogue must have the attitude of openness with regard to others without the temptation to condemn a priori, combined with the imperative to avoid harmful polemics which unduly offend other believers.

24. Saint John Paul II affirms that religious freedom, the foundation of all other freedoms, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of every person. It is not a right among others, but ‘[the] guarantee of all freedoms that ensure the common good of individuals and peoples’.[12] This right as the ‘cornerstone of the structure of human rights’,[13] is the aspiration and tension toward a higher hope, a place of freedom and responsibility. Therefore, human freedom in its search for the truth in the profession of religious conviction, must find a clear guarantee in the legal framework of society. Religious freedom must be recognised and sanctioned as a civil right. Governments must commit themselves to the recognition of a citizen’s right to religious freedom through normative legislation. This right is the peaceful base for civil conviviality, it is intrinsic to true democracy, and is the necessary guarantee of life, justice, truth, peace, and  the mission of Christians in their community.[14]

25. One finds a synthesis of Pope Benedict XVI’s thinking on religious freedom in his message for the celebration of the World Day for Peace, 2011.[15] Benedict teaches that the right to religious freedom is founded upon the dignity of the human person in as much as he or she is a spiritual being, one who is relational and open to the transcendent. It is not therefore a right reserved to believers alone but is shared by all people since it is the synthesis and summit of all other fundamental rights. If respected by all, religious freedom as the origin of moral freedom is the sign of a political and legal society that guarantees the realisation of authentic and integral human development. The promotion of justice, unity, and peace for the human family, favours the search for truth that focuses on God, and ethical and spiritual values that are shared and universal. This search ultimately encourages dialogue between all for the common good in the construction of a peaceful social order. On the contrary, a lack of respect for religious freedom at any level of life: individual, common, civil, or political, offends both God and human dignity creating situations of social disharmony. A lack of respect for religious freedom still exists manifested in religious sectarianism and fundamentalist violence. One also sees this disrespect in various forms of religious discrimination and the manipulations of ideological secularism. In order to foster a positive secularism, State institutions must promote religious education as ‘the highway which leads new generations to see others as brothers and sisters and work together’.[16] Religions for their part, must insert themselves in a dynamic of purification and conversion. This is the task of right reason illuminated by right religion.

26. Pope Francis teaches that religious freedom does not exist to preserve a “subculture”, as some secularists might suggest. Rather, it constitutes a precious gift of God for all, a basic guarantee of every other expression of freedom. It is a defence against totalitarianism and a decisive contribution for human brotherhood. Some classic religious texts have a motivating force that opens up ever new horizons, stimulating intellectual growth and exchange, offering meaning for all eras. Governments must – among all their tasks – safeguard, protect, and defend human rights such as freedom of conscience and religion. Respecting the right of religious freedom renews and strengthens a nation. Therefore, Francis emphasises the place of martyrs in our time as victims of religious persecution and violence. He warns against ideologies that exclude God from any place in individual and communal life. Pope Francis teaches that authentic religion must be able to give account for the existence of the other. It must favour a common space for collaboration, walking together, praying together, and working together, thus assisting all in the realisation of peace.[17]

On the threshold of renewal

27. Faced with certain difficulties in receiving the new orientation from Dignitatis humanae, the post-conciliar Magisterium underlined the dynamics immanent in the process of the homogenous evolution of the doctrine, which Benedict XVI designated the “‘hermeneutic of reform”, a renewal in continuity with the one subject of the Church’.[18] Dignitatis humanae anticipates Benedict as follows: ‘Throughout the ages the Church has kept safe and handed on the doctrine received from the Master and from the apostles. In the life of the People of God, as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there has at times appeared a way of acting that was hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel or even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm’. (DH 12a) The conciliar text highlights and renews a fundamental teaching of Christianity. No one can be forced into religious belief, since forced conversion is unworthy of Christian faith and human nature as created by God. Whilst God calls all people to himself, he forces no one. This freedom is a fundamental right that men and women with responsibility in good conscience can claim in respect to the state.

28. This is the dynamic of the inculturation of the Gospel, which is a free immersion of the Word of God in cultures to transform them from the inside, enlightening them in the light of revelation, in such a way that the faith itself allows itself to be challenged by contingent historical realities – interculturality – as a starting point in order to be able to discern deeper meanings of revealed truth, which in turn must be received in the culture of the context.[19]

3. The Rights of the Person to Religious Freedom

29. Christian anthropology holds that every single person (from conception throughout the whole of one’s life) is always in a relationship with the human community. ‘When one speaks of the person, one references it to the irreducible identity and interiority that constitutes the particular individual being, and to the fundamental relationship to other persons that is at the basis of human community’.[20] This relationship, in which the human quality of the individual and of society is historically shaped, is a specific dimension of human existence and of its spiritual condition itself. The good of the person and the good of the community should not be understood as opposing principles, but as converging goals of ethical commitment and cultural development.

30. The dialogue of truth that all seek is founded upon the good in the horizon of conviviality. This dialogue commits us to improve the conditions for thinking and practicing the truth of anthropology and the rights of the human person. We are called to work harder concerning decisive cultural questions in the renewal of modern society, the economy, and technology in the context of personal and communal integral humanism. It is also a crucial question for the credibility of Christian faith. In the search for justice, integral humanism is a witness to the universal importance of the conversion of mind and heart to the truth of God’s love.

The Discussion on the Theological Foundations

31. The totalitarianism of the twentieth century destroyed the individual in the name of the absolute power of the State and absorbed people as mere functions and instruments in its realisation. The reactions against the traumatic experience of totalitarianism occupy a central place in the development of the modern defence of the inalienable rights of the individual. From this context, the right to religious freedom appears as a fundamental right of the human person.[21] Most agree that the ‘fundamental rights of man’, are founded upon the ‘dignity of the human person’. Yet the nature of this dignity is the object of on-going debate. Does this dignity objectively transcend human self-determination, or does it depend completely on social recognition? Is it ontological or is it purely legal in nature? What is the relation between freedom and personal choices and the protection of the common good and the truth of human nature? In the absence of any consensus - or at least a common orientation – for the identification of criteria for the right exercise of the right to religious freedom, the arbitrariness of the practices and the conflict of interpretations will become unmanageable for civil society (and dangerous for the human community). The risk is re-doubled in societies in which religious openness to transcendence is no longer perceived as a unifying element for shared confidence in the meaning of the human condition, but rather as the historical survival of an archaic and defunct vision.

Dignity and the truth of the human person

32. The incipit of Dignitatis humanae traces the rights of the human person, especially the right of religious freedom, to the dignity of the human person. In a very general sense, this dignity refers to the inalienable perfection of being a moral and social subject in the ontological order.[22] The notion is used in the morality of intersubjective relations to designate that which possesses a value in and of itself. Thus it can never be treated as if it were simply a means. Consequently, dignity is an inherent property of the human person.

33. In the perspective of classical metaphysics, integrated and reworked through Christian reflection, the person is traditionally defined in the order of his irreducible singularity and individual dignity as, ‘an individual substance of a rational nature’.[23] All individuals, by virtue of their biological filiation, belong to the human race and participate in this nature. Therefore, every individual human nature, regardless of its biological or psychological development, sex or ethnicity, actuates that notion of personhood and demands absolute respect on the part of others due to his or her human nature. Human nature in its irreducibility is placed in the crossover between the spiritual and physical world.[24] The dignity of the human person includes the body as its constitutive dimension and ‘participates in the imago Dei’.[25] The body cannot be treated simply as a means or instrument as if it were not an integral dimension of personal dignity. The body shares in the destiny of the person and his or her vocation for deification.[26]

34. The intrinsically personal dimension of human nature is deployed in the moral order as the capacity to self-determine and to orient oneself towards the good, that is to say, as responsible freedom. This quality radically constitutes the dignity of human nature and is the object of responsibility and care for the whole of the human community. ‘… [t]here is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself’.[27] From the beginning, men and women ultimately discover themselves as gifts from God through their parents. This fact of being a gift demands receptivity, integrating it by the development of one’s conscience. It does not constitute a limit for the freedom of self-realisation. Rather it presents the condition that orients freedom in as much as one is a gift for another. This original recognition blocks the path to a self-referential conception of individuality, directing the edification of the person to the mutual development of reciprocity.

35. ‘In the Christian theological tradition, the person presents two complementary aspects’.[28] The notion of person ‘refers to the unity of the ontological subject, that, being of a spiritual nature, enjoys a dignity and an autonomy that manifests itself in self-awareness and the free control of one’s actions’.[29] This same spiritual subject ‘manifests itself in its capacity to enter into relationship: the person displays his action in the order of inter-subjectivity and communion in love’.[30] The necessity to bring out a more complete metaphysics of the original link between individual-being and relational-being, affirmed within the intelligence of faith, has produced developments that have decisively enriched Christian thought and its potential for dialogue with modern culture. Philosophy, science, social anthropology of modernity, together with the original Christian vision, have given vigorous impulse to the understanding of the structure of man as a personal being. In particular these areas emphasise consciousness and freedom, as constitutive dimensions of human nature.

36. In this modern enhancement of human singularity, the dimensions of historicity and praxis have taken on an unprecedented importance compared to the previous tradition. This legitimate enhancement, in its multiple interpretations, was not carried out without contradictions, which are now reflected in many processes of society and contemporary culture. For example, in the emphasis that is placed on the unconditional instance of individual freedom, in the political, emotional and moral context, in a context where the scientific narrative of the impersonal and material conditionings that decide thoughts and feelings and decisions appears increasingly strong. Theology, for its part, even before the Second Vatican Council, had already begun to confront itself, in the light of Revelation, with the demands of the new anthropological culture. Let it be understood more deeply the divine vocation of each individual person to responsibly realise themselves through historical action, both by exploring more deeply the social quality of their personal being, called to define themselves in relation to God, to other men, to the world and to history.

Being a person inherent in the human condition

37. In this dialectical picture we can summarise synthetically the anthropological focus of the conciliar document. Dignitatis humanae established the radical link of the inviolable rights of man and therefore of his individual freedom, with the very nature of his personal being. Essentially there is one unique criterion for the effective recognition of the person a priori: biological membership of the human race. Personal dignity and human rights are already unconditionally inscribed in this membership. Personal being, in this sense, is not an attribute connected with a specific quality or endowment of the human being, like the fact of being conscious or the capacity for self-determination. Neither is it a potentiality or an effect of its maturation. Personal dignity is already radically inherent in the individual. It is a constitutive factor of the human condition, the matrix of every individual quality, every existential condition, every grade of development. Personal existence certainly evolves and grows. However, personal being is not something that people can add to themselves or to another. There does not exist a process of being human in which ‘something’ becomes ‘someone.’ Being a human and being a person is always indistinguishable since one does not become human if one is something else. The human way of being is to be personal individuality.

38. The recognition of personal being, as an inherent dimension to the individual human being, is the basis of the community of human beings. Here everyone occupies an irrevocable place and is the recipient of inalienable rights. In these terms, one can say that the rights of the person are the rights of man. A human community that would expropriate the individual of his human-personal quality would begin, in that same moment, to violate true dignity and destroy itself and humanity. From the other side, it appears equally clear that the recognition of the inalienable personal quality of every human being is itself the principle of each individual belonging to humanity. And precisely this belongingness, which legitimizes the project of full self-realization, is achieved, not in an arbitrary manner, but with a sense of responsibility towards a common humanity. The recognition and practice of a common humanity by each individual is precisely the way in which each person actuates and honours this irreducibly personal human quality. From this perspective one sees the interconnection between respect for the personal dignity of the individual and the participation of the individual for the edification of the whole community.[31]

39. The commitment to support a relational conception of personal being is therefore of special importance, by developing an anthropological reflection capable of convincingly correcting the individualist visions of the subject.[32] On the other hand, not only the most important orientations of recent philosophical thought, but also major currents of political, economic and even scientific knowledge, converge in a significant way to highlight the constitutive dimension of relational dynamics. The interaction and reciprocity that characterize personal existence correspond to the deep condition of human singularity, in the life of the body as well as that of the spirit. The person manifests himself in all his beauty precisely through his capacity to realize himself in relation to spiritual interiority in the order of intersubjective relationships and in that of the nature of the world.

The mediation of conscience

40. This truth of the human condition appeals to the person’s moral conscience, that is, the ‘judgement of reason whereby the human person recognises the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing or has already completed’.[33] One must never act against the judgment of one’s conscience that must be correctly formed, with responsibility and with all the necessary helps. To act against one’s conscience would be to act against that which one believes is necessary for the good. Essentially this would be to act against the will of God,[34] since God speaks through conscience, the ‘most secret core and sanctuary of man. There he is alone with God’.[35] The moral imperative to never act against the judgment of one’s conscience – even when this may be invincibly erroneous – corresponds to the right of never being forced to act against one’s conscience, especially regarding religious matters. Civil authorities likewise have the corresponding obligation to respect and enforce this fundamental right within the just limits of the common good.

41. The right not to be compelled to act against one’s own conscience is in deep harmony with the Christian conviction that religious belonging is essentially defined by an attitude – faith – which, by its nature, cannot fail to be free. This Christian insistence on the indispensable freedom of the act of faith has arguably played an important role in the historical process of the emancipation of the individual in early modernity. “The obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5) is the free adherence of the person to the Father’s plan of love that, through Christ in the power of the Spirit, invites all to enter into the mystery of the communion of the Trinity. The act of faith is the act through which ‘man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals’.[36] Notwithstanding the Christian acts of infidelity in serious contradiction to this doctrine in times of trial throughout the ages,[37] the Church knows that God respects the freedom of human action and its place in the processes of life and of history. By defending the freedom of this act of faith, the Church offers to all men a supreme witness. If freedom grows with the truth, it is equally evident that truth must exist in a climate of freedom in which it can flourish. (cf. Jn 8:32)

42. Upon reflection, the freedom of faith is the highest paradigm that one may posit regarding human dignity. From this perspective one understands how the Church interprets her fundamental mission to free men and women from the power of sin and evil, a malign power that seeks to convince man of the impossibility of God’s love. This suspicion against God first insinuated by the evil serpent in the Book of Genesis (cf. Gen 3), imprisons men and women in the twisted logic of God’s secret hostility toward them. This corruption of the image of God creates conflict between peoples, stifles freedom, and frustrates relationships. This despotic image of God is implied by the deception of the evil one. It projects into every human relationship (beginning with that of Adam and Eve) a history of violence and subjection degrading personal dignity and corrupting social bonds.[38] The social doctrine of the Church explicitly affirms that the centre and source of the political and social order relies solely upon the dignity of the human person as one who is intrinsically free.[39] This is an absolute and unconditional principle. This theological claim converges upon a universal principle shared by both modern philosophy and politics: the human person can never be considered simply as a means, but only as an end.[40] 

4. The Right of the Community to Religious Freedom

Social dimensions of the human person

43. The Christian concept of the rights of men and women – that finds explicit and implicit echoes in the anthropology of other religious traditions – holds that man’s inherent freedom is to be lived responsibly for the good of all. However, this freedom needs human relationships so as to grow in strength and wisdom. These relationships help freedom to become engaged, educated, strengthened, and transmitted in the face of alienation fed by fear and individualism. In other words, no man is an island but is always connected to others with whom he or she is called to build a community.[41] For a long time it was recognised that we could only judge whether one thing was better than another if we had an elementary understanding of the truth instilled within us. The judgement of the conscience about the possibility of the justice of an act was understood from personal experience and moral reflection. This judgment is defined in relationship to a common ethos that teaches and makes intelligible virtuous acts as conforming to the truth of man.[42] In this sense, communities of belonging (family, nation, religion) precede the individual by welcoming and assisting him in the great anthropological adventure of his integral personalisation.[43] This historical and social form of the actualisation of human nature understands it as a movement of reciprocal integration between freedom and truth.

44. The recognition of the “equal dignity” of people is not simply resolved by the juridical formulation of “equal rights”. A juridical conception of the equality of individuals that is too abstract and formal within the realm of legal institutions tends to ignore the richness of difference. These differences can and must be valued and placed in relation to each other as the source of human richness. These differences must not be neutralised as if they were the basis of discrimination and the emptying of identity. On the other hand, distinctions should be made between the differences that structure the human condition of the will of personal inclinations. The State that limited itself to registering these subjective desires, transforming them into a bond of law, without any acknowledgment of its relationship with the common good,would risk weakening the institutional support of the ethical reasons that protect social ties.[44] The protection of the human being, which is our most precious common good, is thus exposed to an inevitable erosion, which ends up also damaging the individual.[45] Today’s recognition (stronger than ever) of the equal dignity of men and women must be reflected by a deep understanding of equal human rights. In fact ‘the Bible lends no support to the notion of a natural superiority of the masculine over the feminine sex’.[46] The equal dignity of men and women before God, in virtue of their reciprocity, must exalt and not minimise the difference of being “man and woman”. We clearly find in the Old Testament (cf. Gen 2:18-25), and in the words and deeds of Jesus (cf. Mt 27:55; 28:1-8; Mk 7:4-24-30; Lk 8:1-3; Jn 4:1-42; 11:20-27; 19:25),[47]the concrete and universal elaboration of this principle has just begun, not only in Christian thought, but also in civic culture.[48]

Subsidiarity and the Founding Narrative

45. The procedural emptying of institutions tends to ignore the humanising role that is proper to the family. Families establish the intimate bonds between man and woman ensuring personal continuity through the raising and education of children. The unity – biological and spiritual – of this introduction to the human condition and to personal identity, in a primordial environment of reciprocity and emotional responsibility, constitutes an essential premise for the acquisition of the human sense of sociality.[49] Society lives by this foundation. The ancient experience of the human community, in all its cultural variations, knows all too well the irreplaceability of this foundation.

A related obsession is the desire for a perfectly neutral value system (bordering on agnosticism) regarding the place of religion. This obsession inevitably leads to institutional legality that fails to value the entire symbolic universe of civil society, a reality that is uniquely human. Every religious community draws on this symbolic realm and expresses itself through clarification and interpretation. The indifference of the State makes these symbolic functions on which social belonging is nourished progressively strange for a society evermore incapable of comprehending and respecting them.

46. Religious experience protects this plan of reality in which social conviviality lives and addresses the themes and contradictions that are proper to the human condition: love and death, truth and justice, incomprehension and hope. Religious witness protects the mystery of life in all its profundity. Religion makes explicit and holds together the transcendent ethical and affective foundations of man. Religion draws them away from the nihilistic will of power and restores them to faith in love of the other. The indissoluble unity of love of God and neighbour, sealed in the Christian’s faith, confers on the familiar narrative of justice and the destination of the affections, the vision of eternal life, the one truth of hope.

Religious practices and concrete humanity

47. The promise of eternal redemption for the adventure of human affections, which corresponds to the hope that they will be justified and saved – beyond all human hope – bars the way to a melancholic withdrawal into individualism and a materialism of the human condition and of civic culture itself. The affective universal memory of the dead (typical of religious communities) demonstrates both the strength of believers and the irrevocable character of human bonds. In the face of death, something that is not fulfilled in them, remains in expectation of redemption. The most ancient human traditions attest to this original character of man. Man’s character is open to the reception of a transcendent truth of the symbolic languages of life. It spontaneously resists biological confinement, instead opening its earthly ties to the mystery of divine life. This is true also of secular societies that, when confronted by the tragedies related to the mortal condition of human life, open public spaces for religious celebrations and the symbolic expression of truths. In the face of disasters that wound the civil community, the steadfastness of religious resistance to the nihilism of death appears to all as a fortress protecting the irreplaceable nature of humanity. Those affected in families and communities where justice seems inaccessible and human resources impotent do not lose hope. It is a hope that can only be assured by the justice and the love of the Creator. In such cases, the theme of man’s final destiny becomes also a public question. The “religious form” of this recognition legitimises itself, as it were, from within, as a true “public service”, even in the framework of the secular State.

48. National history, in which individual destinies are written through the succession of generations, to find their roots and deep identity before and beyond the specific form of the State, is today a global geopolitical challenge. If it is true that the freedom and dignity of people can only be formed through the traditions and stories that express and update them, then it is urgent that national history be enriched, accepting the complexity and differentiation of its contributions, through the family history of each citizen, and in reference to the global history of the universal human being; therefore, directly or indirectly, also through the particular history of the religious community.[50] For this reason, those who today do not know Christianity and confuse it with an ideology, a moralism, a discipline or an archaic superstructure, can only approach it through a human-family encounter, so that, through that encounter they can listen again to the story that the recognition of God has awakened, to safeguard the generations: ‘When tomorrow your son asks you: What are those norms, those mandates and decrees that the Lord, your God sent you? You will answer your son: We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand. [...] He took us out of there to bring us and give us the land he had promised to our parents. And he commanded us to fulfill all these mandates, respecting the Lord, our God, for our perpetual good, so that we continue living as today’. (Dt 6,20-24).

Integral education and incorporation into the community

49. In the community of the Church the faithful live out the daily conformation of themselves to the words and actions of Christ. In the Church the relationship of every believer with Christ is made existentially possible and unfolds socially in ecclesial communion.[51] Christian existence unites individual freedom to the act of faith. Its insertion in a communal tradition is as two sides of the same personal dynamism. The evocation of this genealogy of the Christian faith brings us back to the conviction, essential from an anthropological perspective, that human freedom, protected by the recognition of human rights, cannot be achieved in a spontaneous and individualistic way. Free men come to light in the relationship with others who have already conquered more freedom, and learn from those who are more free to correct in themselves everything that remains dependent on impulses, conditioning, conformist constraints, narcissistic self-confirmation. In whatever shape (democratic, liberal, pluralist) the modern State intends to form itself as a solid and perennial structure (natural and historical), it is necessary to consider in what way this process can be most effectively sustained and regulated for the development of the human rights of its citizens.

50. In other words, one seeks to understand how these general formulae are able to contain the movement of life and the participation of citizenship in such a way as to harmonise the different processes of humanisation and the unity of the generative history of the national community.[52] No State can guarantee the vitality of its “democracy” as a common good without respecting the communities that form that same State.[53] Disregarding this principle leaves the more noble formulae to remain in name alone, or to become the misleading and empty fetishes of those arcana imperii of yesteryear. The Christian conception of good government includes the idea that human freedom does not in itself have its own end, as if its meaning and its completion coincided with the unlimited and indeterminate arbitrariness of all possibilities of affectivity and of desiring. The end of freedom lies rather in its consistency with the human dignity of affectivity and will, which always turns to the quality of the good in relation to which it is determined.

51. The true goal of human freedom (that is personal and relational) must be guided by reason and the revelation of the good. From here one begins to measure the progress of constructing life and history. This idea today is included in the well-known formula of “human ecology”. Human ecology is the coherent ordering of life and the human habitat according to natural and divine reasons for its origin and end.[54] The Christian vision has inspired a new direction in the story of freedom and human responsibility regarding the constitution and destination of the person. Freedom is the splendid reflection of God’s largesse toward his creatures. The passage through conscience and freedom fundamentally protects and increases creaturely dignity. It is an essential condition for the actualisation of the history of salvation. Free will and the intimate condition of being human in a relationship with God, decide the salvific quality of the human story which is a story of covenant and communion with a God who wants to be believed and loved, rather than endured and suffered.

The value of intermediary bodies and the State

52. To broaden this reflection let us reflect on the importance of “intermediary bodies”, social groups that present themselves and self-represent certain sectors of civil society.[55] They play a mediatory function between personal rights and the State government. They are distinct from pressure groups, lobbies, and class action groups, whose purpose is to gain exclusive benefit for their interest group, without regard to the common good. The intermediary bodies exercise a certain active mediation regarding the State, with functions of institutional subsidiarity in the interest of the common good.[56]

53. The Catholic Church rejects any notion of being a private interest group competing to affirm her own privileges. The mission of the Church is evangelisation, the proclamation of God’s justice and universal love, which can never be reduced to political interest on her part. Consequently, the Church’s contribution to the cultural good and public ethics is mediated through social bonds and civic participation. The public significance of this mediation is in the interest of the common good and an appeal to political humanism. In this sense, the Church is the principal animator of intermediary bodies, supporting public ethics and social bonds within the possibilities and limits of both national and international legislative government. The Church is not a simple opinion group or pressure group. Nor is the Church in competition with the State in the realm of governing civil society. The Church, whilst rejecting any model of theocratic government, remains a voice for religious freedom in the public sphere. In the demand for freedom, the Church distances herself from a model of agnostic multiculturalism, the notion of being a self-referential ideological and religious body that rejects every legitimate mediatory function (ethical, cultural, community) between active citizenship and State government.

The State, the web and communities of conviction

54. The communications revolution, thanks to the internet and social media, demonstrates the potential of new technological resources for human interaction. This complex theme calls for constant attention. Modern information networks play an important role for religious people to communicate their message. However there is also the danger of spreading certain theories and practices that can weaken religions and their message. The ease and speed of online intervention, at many levels, opens up a potential for social participation that was inaccessible until yesterday. We cannot fail to appreciate these new possibilities.However, they favour a style of emotional interaction, of increasing intensity, as observers now point out. The apparent freedom of online individual expression, together with the difficulty of verifying content, has also produced the major phenomenon of fake news not to mention the polarisation of views and the presence of so-called haters. These elements that characterise participation in this new agora are therefore ambivalent. Their influence cannot be undervalued, especially their political and social impact.

55. Freedom of expression and the responsibility of participation can easily splinter in the environment of online interaction. This in turn exposes individuals and communities to new forms of pressure, hindering a reflective ethic of freedom and exposing them to a subtle manipulation of their ethos. In this new framework, the expressive forms of religion are among the most exposed to uncontrolled emotionality and piloted misunderstanding. In time the global community will develop appropriate regulations for the management of this new exchange between private and public. From now on it is necessary for the Christian community to identify educational instruments equipped to deal with the new online/social processes for constructing the relational ethos and the formation of political consensus.[57] The Christian community must be cautious not to be presented, through new forms of media, as a lobby or pressure group. Nor should the Church be perceived as participating in an ideological power struggle with the legitimate rule of the State concerning law and civil society.

5. The State and Religious Freedom

Christianity and the Dignity of the State

56. In the Old Testament, revelation always affirms the priority of God’s sovereign lordship as the object of the free obedience of faith in the logic of the exclusive covenant with God (cf. Dt 6:4-6). However, it does not make this obedience an alternative to the constitution of a legitimate power of government of the people, which responds to rules intrinsic to the constitution of institutional frameworks – political, economic, legal – endowed with their rationality of exercise, in correspondence with all the normal forms of development of the administrative and organizational functions of the “nation”. The People of Israel knew various forms of governance, from the federation of tribes to the formalisation of the (double) monarchy. In this context, even if it is conditioned by the close conjunction of the political-institutional dimension and the theological-cultural dimension, characteristic of all ancient civilisations, we can note two important aspects. The first lies precisely in the fact that the bond of obedience of faith vis-à-vis the commandments of God is solidly rooted in the form of the covenant, as a free choice to follow God. On the other hand, fidelity to the covenant, and therefore the observance of the divine law, passes through the freedom of a decision, always renewed, to see to the coherence of God’s command with concern for the common good of the people (cf. Dt 7:7-16; Jer 11:1-7). Therefore, this covenant must be continually nourished in fidelity of heart and in the practice of justice.

57. Faithfulness to the spirit of the Covenant does not consist in a privileged election that exempts one from the demands of economic justice, the common good, reciprocal respect, and togetherness. In the history of the old Covenant, a certain distinction between political power and religious institutions appeared during the period of the kings. The political power of the king is distinct from the religious authority of the priest, even if it is the king who then has the privilege of appointing the high priest, and if the priest exercises a practical influence over the king (cf. Kings 11-12). When the foreign dominion of Nebuchadnezzar abolishes the monarchy, it produces a concentration of civil and religious power in the person of the high priest. There still remains though, a certain distinction between particular political functions and those prerogatives specific to religion.[58] The need to harmonise faith in God and his commandments with the practice of justice and solidarity in everyday life represents the profound inspiration of a code of conduct in political life that is coherent with the principles of God’s covenant. When the prophets denounced social injustice, political corruption, violent intimidation, and economic abuse, this was always in the context of betraying the covenant with God and the degeneration of the political ethos (for example Samuel in 1 Sam 13, Nathan in 2 Sam 12, Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19, as well as the writings of prophets such as Amos 4-6, Hosea 4, Isaiah 1, Michah 1, etc.). This concrete denunciation appeals to the “intrinsic reason” of political justice that religious faith defines as an integral aspect of “divine law”.

58. Jesus in a radical way, in the same spirit of prophetic critique, announces and institutes the Kingdom of God. We find this in his parables and his criticism of legalism (cf. Mt 23: 13-28; Lk 10:29-37; 18:9-14). Jesus distinguishes between the exercise of economic-political power (within possibilities and limits of the historical conditions) with consideration for the pastoral care of the people, a care marked by the absolute newness of the revelation and action of God incarnate. The legitimacy of the principle of political power as distinct from religious authority was not debated in the primitive community, a sign that this is an instruction that can be peacefully linked to Jesus himself. The recommendations of Peter and Paul with respect to legitimate civil authority (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pt 2: 13-14), are clear on this subject. The power of political authority granted by God for the good of the people, represents a mediation of justice in the historical world order that cannot be cancelled. The representation of this order given to legitimate political authority, refers ultimately to God’s care for creation. The distinction need not be eliminated. On the other hand, regarding this distinction, the special difference between the evangelical-ecclesial mission and pastoral authority takes the form of this distinction as willed by Christ himself. It must be made clear that the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus is not “of this world”, (Jn 18:36). The exercise of pastoral power must not be confused with the logic of power that “guides the nations”. (Lk 22:25). The space for the legitimate recognition of the prerogatives of political authority (Caesar) is not up for discussion, provided that this authority does not seek to usurp the place of “God”. (cf. Mt 22: 21)[59] For Christians there is no question that supreme obedience is reserved to God alone. (cf. Acts 5:29) The freedom of this obedience that marks a disciple of the Lord is the radical expression of the freedom of faith. (cf. 1 Pt 3: 14-17) This obedience is not an abuse of one’s individual freedom, nor is it a challenge to the legitimate public order of any community. (cf. 1 Pt 2: 16-17)

59. Now let us consider the Christian witness of resistance during the persecutions of the Roman Empire in relation to the religio civilis and the forced cult of the emperor.[60] The Christian faith and its claim to incarnate the authentic reign of God was seen as a threat to the religious cult of the emperor.[61] The evangelical inspiration (justifying civil power for the common good, but resisting it as a substitutive form of religion) is recovered in St Augustine’s City of God.[62] Augustine in no way rejects the legitimate place of the State in guaranteeing peace in a way that is connected to the future promise of God’s peace in the eternal life. A shallow reading of Augustine’s notion of the “two cities”, falsely places the temporal good of the human community in opposition to the good of communion with God. Another simplification and reduction of Augustine’s thesis erroneously contends that the State governs “bodies” whilst the Church governs “souls”.

60. The coordinates of the problem of religious freedom and of the relations between the Church and the political authorities appear to have changed. A new page in the history of religious freedom and the relationship between Church and State begins with the laws of the Emperor Theodosius (cir. 380-390). This novel construction of the “Christian State”, that lacks any official religious pluralism, introduces a new reality for reflection on religious freedom.[63] Christian reflection has sought to maintain a just distinction between political power and the spiritual power of the Church without ever giving up thinking of their intrinsic articulation. However, this balance may be threatened by a double temptation. The first is by a theocratic temptation to derive the origin and legitimacy of civil power from the plenitudo potestatis of religious authority, as if political authority were exercised by virtue of a simple delegation, always revocable, on the part of ecclesiastical power. The second temptation is that of absorbing the Church into the State, as if the Church were an organ or a simple function of the State, charged with the religious dimension. The theological formula of equilibrium, always sought nevertheless in a framework which provides for the superiority of the spiritual competence of the sacra potestas over the care of public order recognised as belonging to political power, appears in various forms and in various contexts already since the 5th century (Gelasius 494) to the end of the 19th century (Leo XIII 1885).[64] Gaudium et spes seeks to expound a model that justly harmonises and distinguishes these theological questions. Gaudium et spes offers a model in the light of principles of autonomy and cooperation between the political community and the Church.[65] The socio-political changes of the modern world that warn against the pretence of a religious legitimisation of government regarding ethical and social questions, produces at the same time the opportunity to appreciate the value of freedom and religious affiliation. Connected is the value of a civil conviviality that excludes every form of constraint (also psychological) in the adherence to values of ethical-religious experience. This vision is the mature reflection of the Christian tradition. This vision also appears as a universal principle for the dignity of man that the State must guarantee.

The ‘Monophysite’ Drift regarding relations between religions and the state

61. The city of God lives and grows “inside” the city of man. Therefore, the social doctrine of the Church recognises as a blessing the commitment of those who promote the common good in everyday life.[66] The Christian doctrine of the two cities affirms a distinction rather than an opposition between temporal and spiritual realities. God does not impose a specific form of government. Understood theologically, earthly authority over others derives ultimately from God and is dependent upon his authority. Despite this ultimate foundation upon God’s authority, social ties and political government remain a human enterprise. Since this authority is dependent upon God’s judgement, there exists a precise limit to the power conferred on the ability of earthly authority to govern people and communities.[67] One might describe a “theocratic State”, as analogous to an “atheistic State”. Both seek in different ways to impose an ideology of substitution of God’s power for the power of the State. Consequently, this ideology distorts both religion and politics. One can identify a certain political analogy of Christological monophysitism in these models. Monophysitism confounds and ultimately cancels any distinction between Christ’s human and divine nature, achieved in the Incarnation. This heresy destroys the harmony between their unity. Today there exists a type of “political monophysitism”, (known previously in Christian history) that is emerging again more clearly in certain radical currents of non-Christian religious traditions.

The ‘liberal’ reduction of religious freedom

62. The concept of the equality of citizens, which was originally limited to the legal relationship between the individual and the State, such that each member of a given system of government was considered equal before the law of that system of government, has been transposed into the world of ethics and culture. By this extension, the mere possibility that a different moral evaluation or a different appreciation of cultural practices may be superior to others or contribute more than others to the common good, has now become a controversial political issue. According to this idea of neutrality, the whole universe of human morality and social knowledge must itself be democratised.[68] The loss of meaning of ethos and culture, which derives from the application of this egalitarian ideology, which refuses to express any value judgment whatsoever, can only raise concerns. The formative practices and social ties of the community are thus paralysed by the presuppositions inherent in this ideology. Additionally, one observes a certain trend in the “morally neutral” State that leads to the control of all human judgments, transforming the State into one that is “ethically-authoritarian”. The original rapport between truth and the free exercise of conscience (in whose name is imposed a censure of every evaluation) finds itself in constant danger. Without regard for the criteria of just public order, this “ethic of the State”, can threaten the legitimate freedom of religious communities to organise themselves according to their principles.[69]

63. The moral neutrality of the State is a doctrine connected to various theories of the modern liberal State. Liberalism, as a political theory, has a long and complex history, which cannot be reduced to a univocal conception shared by all. Among its various theoretical elaborations – some are more directly linked to an anthropological vision of radically individualist inspiration, others adhere more to a conception where its politico-social application is linked to negotiation – we can identify at least four main interpretations of State neutrality: (a) a doctrine regarding the kinds of issues which might be subject to legislation; (b) a doctrine about the kinds of justifications or reasons legislators may promote to defend or oppose particular measures; (c) a theory which makes differentiated effects acceptable in relation to the advantages of various social groups, provided that these advantages are not the formal reason for the standard; and (d) a theory pertaining to the exercise of a particular kind of liberal political virtue that expressly excludes any recourse to notions of a transcendent good. This last definition of political liberalism appears strictly associated with the limitations of freedom regarding, word, thought, conscience, and religion. In this case, the neutrality of the public sphere does not guarantee the equality of persons before the law but imposes the exclusion of a determined order of preferences, which combine moral responsibility and ethical argumentation with an anthropological and social vision of the common good. In such a situation the State tends to adopt a form of “secular parody”, redolent of a theocratic conception of religion. It is a form of parody that decides the “orthodoxy” and “heresy” of freedom in the name of a political-salvific vision of the ideal society, deciding a priori its perfectly rational, civil, and human identity. The absolutism and relativism of this liberal morality is in conflict here with both the illiberal exclusionary effects of its operation in the public sphere, and the internal claims of the neutral State.

The ambiguity of a morally neutral State

64. Moral conscience requires the transcendence of truth and the moral good. Its freedom is defined by this reference, which indicates precisely what justifies it for everyone, without being the personal property of any one person. Individual freedom of conscience refers to the innate human right that cannot be severed from its source common to all people, wrested away by the arbitrariness of men. Otherwise, we no longer speak of ethically inviolable conscience, but of the simple reflection of the given world or the desired arbitrariness. The ethical request does not overlap with freedom of conscience and the good of social conviviality as an optional or ideological element: it is rather the condition of their intrinsic harmonization with the dignity of the person. The reference to God, as the transcendent principle of the ethical request that inhabits the heart of man, must be understood, ultimately, as the limit placed on every abuse of man over man and the protection of all fraternal conviviality of freed and equal beings. When the place of God, in the collective conscience of a people, is occupied illegally by man-made idols, the result is not a more advantageous liberality for everyone, but a more insidious servitude for everyone. The alleged ideological neutrality of the liberal State, which selectively excludes the freedom of a transparent testimony of the religious community in the public sphere, opens the way for the fake transcendence of an occult ideology of power. Pope Francis warned us against this underestimation of religious indifference: ‘When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to exclude God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon, men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled, and their rights violated’.[70].

65. The problem arises, for Christianity, when Christians themselves are led to conceive of themselves as members of a "neutral society" which, in principle and in fact, is not so. In this case, their condition as inhabitants of different, but not opposing communities (the family, the State, the Church) prompts them into the choice to live privately (in a self-referential way) within the family and ecclesial community. This existence is conceived as a neutral (non-religious) affiliation to a liberal and political society. In other words, in the wake of this drift, Christians begin to see themselves, in the public sphere, only as members of that "morally neutral" polis which happened to be formed by chance in a historically Christian context. When Christians passively accept this bifurcation of their being into an exterior governed by the State and an interiority governed by the Church, they, in fact, have already renounced their freedom of conscience and religious expression. In the name of the pluralism of society, Christians cannot favor solutions that compromise the protection of fundamental ethical needs for the common good.[71] It is not in itself a question of imposing particular "confessional values", but of contributing to the protection of a common good that does not lose sight of the binding reference of the "public sphere" to the truth of the person and the dignity of human conviviality. As we will see further in the following chapters, the Christian faith has an attitude of cooperation with the State, precisely by virtue of the due distinction of its duties, to seek what Benedict XVI has qualified as "positive laicity" in the relationship between the public and religious space.[72]

6. The contribution of religious freedom to conviviality and social peace

Religious freedom for the good of all

66. So far we have studied the various personal and communal aspects of religious freedom, deepening above all its anthropological dimensions and its relationship to the State. Our reflection, developed from the unitary perspective of the dignity of the human person, described the meaning and implications of freedom of conscience – on the one hand – and the value of religious communities – on the other. In a second step, we presented some points concerning the contradictions inscribed in the ideology of the neutral State, when this “neutrality” is declined in terms of “exclusion” from the legitimate participation of religion in the formation of public culture and social ties. Now we turn to the concrete exercise of religious freedom and the practical themes concerning the mediation between social life and the juridical institutions that regulate its concrete exercise.

Conviviality has the quality of a good

67. Social conviviality, togetherness, is, in itself, a good, for individuals as for the community. This good does not derive from the adoption of a particular theoretical vision. Its justification emerges from its existence.[73] To the extent that this fact is recognized, appreciated and defended, it contributes to the good of social conviviality and the common good. The acceptance of conviviality, and the search for its best quality, represents the fundamental premise of an understanding – a covenant one might say - that creates the conditions of a good life for all. In fact, with regard to the conflicts that are now causing the greatest concern, there is the terrible reality that the divisions and horrors that ignite the outbreak of a global war “fought piecemeal”,[74] devastate with sudden rage what had been the reality of peaceful friendships long experienced and sedimented in time, and leave behind them an interminable series of sufferings for people.[75] In today’s troubled environment, we cannot ignore the concrete effects of forced migration, political conflicts, and the precarious economic conditions, for the just exercise of religious freedom, since migrants move around the world with their religion.[76]

68. Only where there is the will to live together can a good future be built for everyone: otherwise there will be no good future for anyone. In the era of globalization, the fundamental human need for security and community has not changed: being born in a concrete place always involves interacting with others, starting with the closest, but in reality interacting with the whole world. This very fact makes us responsible for each other, near and far. Today responsibilities are increasingly interdependent, going beyond social differences or borders. The decisive problems for human life cannot be adequately solved except in a perspective of both local and temporal interaction. For this reason, the practical good of conviviality is not a static good but one in constant evolution, which, in order to be able to develop adequately, must also be ensured politically.[77] Religious communities, put in a position to promote the transcendent reasons and humanistic values ​​of conviviality, are a principle of vitality of mutual love to unite the entire human family. The good of conviviality becomes a treasure for everyone, when all share in its protection.

69. Particularly relevant, for the harmonization of the constitutive dimensions of common life, is the sphere of religious beliefs and the most intimate ethical convictions of men. This harmonisation concerns those who consciously invest their identity and guide their attitudes with regard to their conscience and the conduct of others. We do not see why it should be impossible, with mutual respect, to share as a good available to all the personal and community relationship that religious communities cultivate with regard to God. In any case, it is certainly not a good thing that this experience is cultivated secretly, without the possibility that all members of society recognise it freely and have access to it. The religious spirit nurtures the relationship with God and it is a good which concerns the human being: the sincerity and the blessing of this conviction must be able to be verified and appreciated by all. From this also flows the commitment of believers to improve the quality of the dialogue between religious experience and social life. All have an interest in overcoming the drift of social knowledge relating to meaning towards indifferentism and radical relativism.

The right discernment of religious freedom

70. Every form of religious experience (individual and collective, historical or current) does not necessarily possess the same value. It is necessary therefore to explore the diverse forms of religiosity and assess their attitude to protecting the universal significance and the common good of conviviality.[78] In this sense, every one of the active religions in a society must accept to “present itself” before the just demands of reason “worthy” of men and women. Political authority has the duty to protect the public order and defend its citizens (especially the weakest) against the sectarian drifts of certain religious claims (psychological and emotional manipulation, economic and political exploitation, isolationism…). In recent times, among the just demands of reason and its juridical-political implications, one can include the peaceful reciprocity of religious rights and the freedom of conversion.[79] The peaceful reciprocity of rights demands that the freedom of expression and practice for a religious minority in one country, corresponds to the freedom for religious minorities in the country where that religion is conversely the majority. This peaceful reciprocity of rights goes beyond the famous principle cuius regio eius et religio enshrined in the Peace of Augsburg (1555). The link of a State religion, which was proposed at a given moment in European history to contain the excesses of what were called “religious wars”, now seems to be outdated with the current evolution of the principle of citizenship, which implies freedom of conscience.

Extensions of religious freedom

71. In some countries there is no legal freedom of religion, while in others legal freedom is drastically limited to the exercise of community worship or strictly private practices. In such countries public expression of a religious belief is not allowed, any form of religious communication is generally prohibited, and severe penalties, including the death penalty, are reserved for those who wish to convert or seek to convert other people. In countries with dictatorial regimes where atheistic thinking prevails – and even, with all due distinctions, in some countries that consider themselves democratic – members of religious communities are often persecuted or subjected to unfavourable treatment in the workplace, are excluded from public office and prevented from accessing certain levels of social assistance. Likewise, social works founded by Christians (in the fields of health, education etc.) are subject to legislative, financial or communications restrictions, which make their development difficult if not impossible. In all these circumstances there is no real freedom of religion. True freedom of religion is only possible if it can be actively expressed through works of a social or educational nature.[80]

72. A free and informed conscience allows us to respect every individual, to encourage the fulfilment of human persons. It refuses an attitude that damages the individual and the common good. The Church expects that her members are free to live their faith and that their rights of conscience be safeguarded whilst respecting the rights of others. To live the faith can at times call for conscientious objection. Civil laws cannot oblige the conscience to contradict the natural law and therefore the State must recognise the right of conscientious objection.[81] The ultimate bond of the conscience is with God, the Father of all. The rejection of this transcendent reference fatally exposes the proliferation of other dependencies. One recalls the incisive aphorism of St Ambrose: ‘How many masters one has, who has fled from one alone’.[82]

7. Religious freedom in the mission of the Church

The free witness of the love of God

73. Evangelisation is not only the faithful proclamation of God’s salvific love, but also the actualisation of a life faithful to the mercy that God has manifested in the event of Jesus Christ, through whom the whole of history opens up to the actualisation of the Kingdom of God. The mission of the Church includes a double action which unfolds in the commitment to a humanism of charity and the responsibility for educating future generations.

74. In this way the Church expresses her profound union with men and women, in every condition of life, showing special concern for the poor and persecuted. Connected with this concern is her total openness to sharing the hopes and fears of the whole human race.[83] This dynamic corresponds to the Christological truth of Christ’s humanity as “perfect man,” (Eph 4:13) who totally assumes our humanity setting nothing aside in his Incarnation.[84] The mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ also signifies the full restitution of man (as a ‘new creature’ 2 Cor 5:17) to his original nature in the “image and likeness” of God.[85] In this sense, the Church is intrinsically oriented to the service of God’s salvific mystery whereby the humanity of men and women is radically redeemed and fully realised. This service is properly an act of worship of God that gives glory to Him for his covenant with humanity.

The Church proclaims religious freedom for all

75. Religious freedom can only be guaranteed from the perspective of a humanistic vision open to cooperation and conviviality. This is a vision profoundly grounded in respect for human dignity and the freedom of the conscience. If this humanistic foundation (that works as a yeast in civic culture) is removed, religious experience loses its authentic foundation in the truth of God and ends up being corrupted by man.[86] The challenge is great. The adaptations of religion to the forms of secular power, although justified in the name of the possibilities of obtaining better advantages for the faith, are a constant temptation and a permanent risk. The Church must develop a particular sensitivity in the discernment of this compromise, constantly committing to purifying weaknesses in the face of the temptation of “spiritual worldliness”.[87] The Church must examine herself in order to rediscover with renewed energy the path of the true worship of God “in spirit and in truth”, (Jn 4:23) with the “love it had at first”. (Rev 2:4) Through this continual conversion, the Church must offer man access to the Gospel at the deepest level of his heart. From here begins the recognition of the true God and of true religion. The Gospel is truly capable of unmasking the religious manipulation that produces consequences of exclusion, abasement, abandonment, and separation amongst people.

76. Ultimately, the Christian vision of religious freedom draws on the profound inspiration of faith in the truth of Christ and his Incarnation for our salvation. Through Christ, the Father draws to himself all his dispersed children and all those sheep without a shepherd. (cf. Jn 10:11-16; 12:32; Mt 9:36; Mk 6:34) The Spirit gathers the groans (cf. Rom 8:22) of man (including the more confused and imperceptible) held hostage by the power of sin and transforms them into prayer. When man is able to freely express his groans and invocations, the action of the Spirit becomes recognisable to all who search for justice in life. His consolation becomes testimony to a reconciled humanity. Religious freedom frees the space for the universal conscience to belong to a community of a common origin and destiny. Such a community keeps alive in recognisable ways the justice of life, whilst recognising that this cannot be achieved by our merits alone. The mystery of the recapitulation of all things in Christ guards for all people the loving anticipation of the fruits of the Spirit and the eager announcement of Christ’s coming for all. (cf. Eph 1:3-14)

Interreligious dialogue as a path to peace

77. Interreligious dialogue is fostered by religious freedom, in the search for the common good. Religious freedom is an inherent dimension of the Church’s mission.[88] Religious freedom is not the goal of evangelisation but contributes to it greatly. It should therefore not be understood or practiced as an alternative or in contradiction with the mission ad gentes.[89] Dialogue (already well-disposed to respectful cooperation) illumines the relational form of evangelical love as it finds its ineffable principle in the mystery of the life of the Trinity.[90] At the same time, the Church recognizes the particular ability of the spirit of dialogue to intercept - and to nourish - a need particularly felt in today's democratic society.[91] The openness of dialogue and the promotion of peace are closely connected. Dialogue helps us to orient ourselves in the new complexities of opinions, knowledge, cultures and above all the content of religion.

78. Through dialogue concerning the fundamental themes of human life, the faithful of different religions bring to light the most important values of their tradition. Likewise, their genuine involvement becomes recognisable regarding what they judge to be essential for the ultimate sense of human life, and the justification of their hope for a more just and fraternal society.[92] The Church desires concrete and constructive dialogue with all who strive for justice and fraternity.[93] By the carrying out of this evangelical mission through dialogue, the light of the Gospel shines ever brighter amongst peoples and religions.

The courage of discernment and the refutation of violence in the name of God

79. Christianity itself can gather together the similarities and likenesses (with their inevitable differences and even dissonances) that make the universalism of theological faith more recognisable.[94] The right of each person to religious freedom is necessarily connected with the recognition that others possess that same right without prejudice whilst respecting the public order.[95] From this perspective, the question of religious freedom is tied to the traditional theme of civil tolerance. True religious freedom must be reconciled with respect for the religious population as well as for those who have no specific religious identity. It should not be overlooked, however, that simple relativistic tolerance in this area can lead – even in contradiction to one’s intention to respect religion – to a shift in behaviour towards indifference to the truth of religion.[96] On the other hand, when religion becomes a menace to the religious freedom of others (in word or deed) even to the point of violence in the name of God, a line is crossed that calls for energetic condemnation, first of all by men and women of that same religion.[97] With regard to Christianity, its “irrevocable departure” from the ambiguity of religious violence is a favourable kairòs for rethinking the place of violence in all religions.[98]

80. The search for full adherence to the truth of religion and a convinced attitude of respect concerning the religions of others can generate tension inside the individual conscience and in the religious community. The reality of this tension (that is anything but an abstraction) leads to a dynamic of critiquing one’s own religion, since it is not only a private reality but one that arises within civil society. This tension and critique are a current challenge specific to religious freedom. One does not treat the application of religious freedom with respect to other religions alone. This question also demands a critique of one’s own religion. This situation poses problems for the delicate equilibrium in the application of religious freedom. In these cases the challenge of protecting religious freedom reaches a tipping point for both civil society and the religious community. The ability to hold together care for the integrity of the common faith (with respect to a conflict of conscience) and the task of safeguarding peace calls for the mediation of a personal maturity with a shared wisdom. Such wisdom and maturity are a grace and a gift from above for which we must pray.

81. “Martyrdom”, is the supreme witness of non-violence and true fidelity to a belief that has become the subject of a specific hatred, intimidation and persecution. The evangelical confession of truth and God’s love in the name of Jesus Christ is all too often in history the target of violence. The martyr becomes the ultimate symbol of freedom and peace in response to conflict, the supreme resistance of love against violence. Often the personal resolve of the martyr in accepting death becomes the seed of religious and human freedom for others. This new life arising from martyrdom is a consistent and universal aspect of the history of Christian evangelisation. These martyrs are a just motivation for admiration and imitation, not only on the part of believers, but with respect to all men and women who at heart desire freedom, dignity, and peace between people. The martyrs have resisted the pressure of retaliation. They end the spirit of vendetta and violence through the strength of forgiveness and fraternal love.[99] Their witness makes clear for all the greatness of religious freedom as the seed for a culture of freedom and justice.

82. Although not killed for their religion, many suffer from deeply offensive attitudes that relegate them to the margins of society. There is also a type of “white martyrdom” whereby believers suffer exclusion from public office, the indiscriminate prohibition against religious symbols, and the exclusion from certain economic and social benefits.[100] This witness is found again today in many parts of the world. It must not be down-played as if it were simply the collateral effect of conflicts for ethnic supremacy or the acquisition of power. The splendour of this witness must be properly understood and well interpreted. It teaches us more clearly and effectively about the authentic good of religious freedom in the world. Christian martyrdom is a demonstration of what occurs when the religious freedom of the innocent is opposed and killed. The martyr is the witness of a faith that remains faithful to itself, refusing, to the point of death, vengeance and murder. In this sense the martyr of the Christian faith has nothing to do with a suicide-homicide action in the name of God. Such a mistaken understanding is a corruption of the mind and a wound of the soul.


83. Christianity does not enclose the history of salvation within the confines of the story of the Church. Rather, in continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and in the perspective of Paul VI’s encyclical Ecclesiam suam, the Church opens up the entire human story to God’s action, a God who ‘desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’. (1 Tim 2:4) The missionary form of the Church inscribed in its disposition to that same faith obeys the logic of gift. This is a logic of grace and freedom, rather than a logic of contract or imposition. The Church is aware of the fact that even with the best of intentions, this logic has been contradicted. This risk always exists due to the inappropriate and incoherent behaviour with regard to how some have received the faith. Nonetheless, we Christians profess with humility the conviction that the Church is always guided by the Lord and supported by the Holy Spirit. Over the course of history the Church is witness to the salvific action of God in the life of individuals and of all peoples. The Church renews her commitment to her historical vocation of announcing the Gospel of the true worship of God in spirit and in truth. When freedom and grace meet in faith, the Church rejoices as she is sustained by the Lord who accompanies her and guided by the Holy Spirit who precedes her. The Church commits anew to conversion, to fidelity of heart, mind, and works so as to restore the purity of her faith.

84. The witness of Christian faith dwells within the time and the space of personal and common life that are truly proper to the human condition. Christians are aware of the fact that this time and space are not empty spaces. Nor are these spaces indistinct as if they were neutral and indifferent with respect to the meaning, values, convictions, and desires that give form to a culture proper to human welfare. They are lived times and spaces of the dynamism of the community and the various traditions of institutions, the law, and groups of belonging. The Church is strongly aware of the plurality of different ways of recognising and understanding the sense of individual and common life (that accompanies ethical consensus for building and manifesting religious assent) and is committed to developing a style of witness that is respectful of individual freedom and the common good. This style that is the subject of the Church’s proclamation of the faith, far from attenuating fidelity to the salvific event, must demonstrate transparently its distance from a spirit of dominion, an unfavourable attitude interested only in the conquest of power for its own ends. The firmness with which the current magisterium defines the theological way out of this misunderstanding makes it possible for the Church to call for a more coherent elaboration of political doctrine.

85. As members of the People of God, we humbly propose to remain faithful to the mission entrusted by the Lord. The invitation to send disciples to all peoples of the earth announcing the Gospel of God’s mercy (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15) is an invitation from God the Father of all, who desires all to freely open their hearts to faith in the Son, made man for our redemption. The Church does not confuse her true mission with the domination of peoples and the secular governments of this world. Moreover, she sees that the demand for a reciprocal instrumentalization of political power and evangelical mission is a vicious temptation. Jesus himself rejects the illusory advantage of such a project as a diabolical seduction (cf. Mt 4:8-10). Jesus plainly rejects the temptation to transform the conflict with the guardians of the law (religious and political) into a conflict aimed at the substitution of the power of society’s institutions. Jesus warns his disciples against the temptation (regarding the pastoral care of the Christian community) of conforming themselves to the criteria and style of earthly powers. (cf. Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42; Lk 22:25). Christianity knows well the meaning and image it must assume for the evangelisation of the world. Her openness to the topic of religious freedom is therefore a coherent clarification of evangelisation and an appeal to faith that presupposes the absence of undue privileges from political sectarianism and the defence of the just rights of the freedom of conscience. This clearly calls for the full recognition of the dignity of the profession of faith and the freedom to public worship. In the logic of faith and mission, active participation and thoughtful participation for the peaceful construction of social bonds (as a generous sharing in the interest of the common good) are the consequences of Christian witness.

86. The cultural and social commitment of believing action, which is expressed in the establishment of intermediary associations and in the promotion of public initiatives, is also a dimension of this commitment, which Christians are called to share with every man and woman of their time, regardless of independent differences in culture and religion. By saying "independent" it is not, of course, meant that these differences are to be ignored and considered insignificant.Rather, these differences must be respected and judged as vital components of the person, duly valued in the richness of their concrete contributions to the vitality of the public sphere. The Church has no reason to choose another way of witness. The Apostle Peter urges that everything be done to ‘keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame’. (1 Pet 3:16). There is no reasonable argument for the State to exclude religious freedom from participating in the reflections of the public sphere in the contribution of reasons for the common good. The State cannot be theocratic, atheistic, or neutral as if the claims of religious culture and religious affiliation were indifferent to the constitution of the real democratic subject. Above all, the State is called to exercise a “positive laicity” with regard to the social and cultural forms that assure the necessary and concrete relation between the rule of law and the community entitled to this right.

87. In this way Christianity is disposed to sustain the hope of a common destination to an eschatological goal in a transfigured world, according to the promise of God (cf. Rev 21:1-8). Christian faith is aware of the fact that this transfiguration is a gift of God’s love for humanity. This is not the result of human efforts to better the quality of private or social life. Religion exists to keep alive the transcendence of this just redemption of life and the completion of its history. Christianity rejects the delusion of every worldly messianic omnipotence (worldly or religious) that leads to the servitude of peoples and the destruction of the common home. The care of creation, entrusted from the beginning to the alliance of man and woman (cf. Gn 1, 27-28), and love of neighbour (cf. Mt 22:39), which seals the evangelical truth of God’s love, are the subject of a responsibility on which all of us – Christians first – at the end of our God-given time for conversion by his love shall be judged. The Kingdom of God is already in action in history, awaiting the advent of the Lord, who will introduce us to its fulfillment. The Spirit that says "Come!" (Rev 22, 17), which collects the groans of creation (cf. Rom 8, 22) and makes "all things new" (Rev 21, 5) brings the courage of the faith it sustains into the world (cf. Rom 8, 1-27), in favor of all, the beauty of the "reason [logos] of hope" (1 Pt 3, 15) which is in us, and the freedom, for everyone, to hear and follow it.

[1] The Council set out to discern the meaning of religious freedom, taking into account the understanding not only of ecclesial communities but also of governments, institutions, the press, and jurists of the time. See the explanation by A. J. De Smedt, Relatio (September 23, 1964) (Acta synodalia III / 2, p. 349). One pertinent source of merit is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), others are the various philosophical and legal insights. The International Theological Commission proposes a hierarchy of the rights of man, referring to the various international documents found in, The dignity and rights of the human person (1983), Introduction 2.

[2] Cf. J. Hamer – Y. Congar (dir.), La libeté religieuse. Déclaration “Dignitatis humanae personae,” Cerf, Paris 1967; R. Minnerath, Le droit de l´Église à la liberté. Du Syllabus à Vatican II, Beauchesne, Paris 1982, 123-159; D. Gonnet, La liberté religieuse à Vatican II. La contribution de John Courtney Murray, Cerf, Paris 1994; S. Scatena, La fatica della libertà. L’elaborazione della dichiarazione “Dignitatis Humanae” sulla libertà religiosa del Vaticano II, Il Mulino, Bologna 2003; R. A. Siebenrock, “Theologischer Kommentar zur Erklärung über die religiose Freiheit Dignitatis humanae” in: P. Hünermann – B. J. Hilberath (Hg.), Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil, Bd. IV, Herder, Freiburg – Basel – Wien 2005, 125-218; G. del Pozo, La Iglesia y la libertad religiosa, BAC, Madrid 2007, 179-244; R. Latala – J. Rime (éd.), Liberté religieuse et Église catholique. Héritage et développments récents, Academic Press Fribourg, Fribourg 2009, 9-30; J. L . Martínez, Libertad religiosa y dignidad humana. Claves católicas de una gran connexion, San Pablo – UPC, Madrid 2009, 65-130; D. L. Schindler – N. J. Healy Jr., Freedom Truth, and Human Dignity. The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom. A New Translation, Redaction History, and Interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids (Michigan) – Cambridge (U.K.) 2015; P. Coda – P. Gamberini, Dignitatis humanae. Introduzione e comment, in: S. Noceti – R. Repole (ed.), Ad gentes. Nostra aetate. Dignitatis humanae (Commentario ai Documenti del Vaticano II, 6), Dehoniane, Bologna 2018, 611-695.

[3] Cf. Gregory XVI, Mirari vos arbitramur, (15 August 1832); Pius IX, Quanta cura (8 December 1864).

[4] Cf. Pius XII, Christmas Radio Message “Benignitas et Humanitas” to all peoples of the world (24 December 1944): AAS 37 (1945), 10-23.

[5] John XXIII, Pacem in terris (11 April 1963), n. 18: AAS 55 (1963), 261.

[6] Cf. ibid, n. 9, 14, 45-46, 64, 75: ASS 55 (1963), 260-261, 268-269, 275, 279. These perspectives will become constants throughout Vatican II and beyond: cf. Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes (7 December 1965), n. 17; John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), n. 35-41: AAS 85 (1993), 1161-1166; Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), n. 1731-1738; Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate (29 June 2009), n. 9, 17: AAS 101 (2009), 646-647, 652-653.

[7] See also, 41, 42, 76.

[8] Cf. Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Nostra aetate (28 October 1965), n. 1-5.

[9] In reference to atheism, the Council offers an essential description of the religious condition common to all human experiences (cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, n. 19-21). This is a permanent reflection of post-Conciliar ecclesial texts. One finds such a synthesis in the following documents: Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 27-30, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004), n. 14-15. International Theological Commission, Christianity and the World Religions (1997), n. 107-108; God the Trinity and the unity of humanity. Christian Monotheism and its opposition to violence (2014), n. 1-2.

[10] See also, n. 44. A relevant synthesis is also found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 421-423.

[11] Cf. Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam (6 August 1964), n. 30, 72, 81, 90 et passim: AAS 56 (1964), 618-619, 641-642, 644, 646-647; Address to the Diplomatic Corp accredited to the Holy See (14 January 1978): AAS 70 (1978), 168-174.

[12] John Paul II, Redemptoris missio (7 December 1990), n. 39: AAS 83 (1991), 286-287.

[13] Id., Message for the Celebration of the XXI World Day of Peace: “Religious Freedom: Condition for Peace” (1 January 1988): AAS 80 (1988), 278-286).

[14] Cf. Id., Redemptor hominis (4 March 1979), n. 12b-c, 17f-i: AAS 71 (1979), 279-281, 297-300; Address of John Paul II On the occasion of the meeting with the exponents of non-Christian religions, (5 February 1986), Madras, n. 5: AAS 78 (1987), 766-771; Christifideles laici (30 December 1988), n. 39: AAS 81 (1989) 466-468; Message for the Celebration of the XXI World Day of Peace: Religious Freedom: Condition for Peace”: AAS 80 (1988), 278-286; Message for the Celebration of the XXII World Day of Peace: “To build peace: Respect minorities” (1 January 1989): AAS 81 (1989), 95-103; Message for the Celebration of the XXIV World Day of Peace: “If you want peace, respect the conscience of every person” (1 January 1991): AAS 83 (1991), 410-421.

[15] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the Celebration of the XLIV World Day of Peace: “Religious Freedom: The Path to Peace” (1 January 2011): AAS 103 (2011), 36-58. Also, Caritas in veritate, n.29: AAS 101 (2009), 663-664; Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See (12 May 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 789-791; Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia (22 December 2006): AAS 99 (2007), 26-36; “Faith, Reason, and the University, Memories and Reflections” Meeting with the representatives of science (12 September 2006), Regensburg: AAS 98 (2006), 728-739; Address to the Diplomatic Corp accredited to the Holy See (10 January 2011): AAS 103 (2011), 100-107; Meeting with the Representatives of British Society (17 September 2010) Westminster: AAS 102 (2010), 633-635; Meeting with Clerical and Lay Religious Representatives of Other Religions (17 September 2010), London Borough of Richmond: AAS 102 (2010), 635-639; Homily (28 March 2012), Havana: AAS 104 (2012), 322-326.

[16] Id., Message for the XLIV World Day of Peace: “Religious Freedom: The Path to Peace” (1 January 2011), n.4: AAS 103 (2011), 49-50. In reference to the meaning of ‘laicità positive’ or ‘positive laicity’ the reader is directed to footnote 72 of this document. Benedict XVI also uses the term ‘sana laicità’ or healthy secularism to identity a positive way forward in the dialogue between ethical-religiosity and politics. “… ethical and political principles which still constitute a valid example of healthy secularism where the religious dimension, with the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but appreciated as the Nation’s ‘soul’ and a fundamental guarantee of human rights and duties.” (General Audience, 30 April 2008). Pius XII much earlier spoke of a “legitimate healthy secularity of the State.” (Discourse to the residents in Rome from the Marche, 23 March 1958): AAS 50 [1958], 220.

[17] Cf. Francis, Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), n. 257: AAS 105 (2013), 1123; Address to Civil Authorities (28 November 2014), Ankara: AAS 106 (2014), 1017-1019; Meeting with leaders of other religions and Christian denominations 21 September 2014), Tirana: Enchiridion Vaticanum. Official Documents of the Holy See, vol. 30 (2014), Dehoniane, Bologna 2016, 1023-1027; Meeting for Religious Freedom with the Hispanic Community and Other Immigrants (26 September 2015). Philadelphia: AAS 107 (2015), 1047-1052.

[18] Benedict XVI, Christmas Message to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 46. Cf. Francis, Evangelii gaudium, nn. 26-30: AAS 105 (2013), 1030-1033.

[19] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 53c; Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi (8 December 1975), nn. 18-20: AAS 68 (1976), 17-19; John Paul, Slavorum Apostoli (2 June 1985), n. 21: AAS 77 (1985), 802-803; Francis, Evangelii gaudium, nn. 116-117: AAS 105 (2013), 1068-1069; International Theological Commission, Faith and Inculturation (1988), n. 1.11. For a distinction between the terms ‘inculturation,’ and ‘interculturality,’ see J. Ratzinger, Christ, Faith and the Challenge of Cultures.” Meeting with the Doctrinal Commissions in Asia, Hong Kong, March 2-5, 1993.

[20] International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, Human Persons Created in the Image of God (2004), n. 41, basing the social nature of human beings on the mystery of the Trinity. “In the Christian perspective, this personal identity that is at once an orientation to the other is founded essentially on the Trinity of divine Persons.” Cf. also 42-43. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 149. “The human person is essentially a social being because God, who created humanity, willed it so.”

[21] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 18. “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

[22] Cf. International Theological Commission, The Dignity and Rights of the Human Person (1983), n. A; Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 144-148.

[23] A. M. S. Boethius, Contra Eutychen et Nestorium in C. Moreschini (ed.), De consolation philosophiae. Opuscula theologica (= Bibliotheca scriptorium graecorum et Romanorum teubneriana), Saur, Monachii – Lipsiae 2000, 206-241, 214. Cf. Bonaventure, Commentaria in quatuor libros sententiarum Magistri Petri Lombardi, I. d. 25, a. 1, q. 2, in: Opera omnia iussu Leonis XIII P. M. edita, vol. I, ex Typographia Polyglotta, Romae 1888, 327-329.

[24] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, II, c. 68, in: Opera omnia iussu Leonis XIII P.M. edita, vol. 13, Typis Riccardi Garroni, Romae 1918, 440-441. Cf. Council of Vienna (DenZH 902); Fifth Lateran Council (DenzH 1440); Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 14; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 362-368.

[25] International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, n. 31.

[26] Sacred Scripture is constant in the teaching “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19). CCC, n. 999. This new body will be transfigured into a glorious body (cf. Phil 3:21) a ‘spiritual body.’ (1 Cor 15:44). Cf. International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, nn. 26-31.

[27] Benedict XVI, Message to the Bundestag (22 September 2011), Berlin: AAS 103 (2011), 663-669.

[28] International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at the Natural Law (2009), n. 67.

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid. See also, International Theological Commission, Dignity and rights of the human person, n. A.II.1. On the creative relationship between theology and philosophy see John Paul II, Fides et ratio (1998), nn. 73-79: AAS 91 (1999), 61-67.

[31] On the theological implications of the concept of the human being as ‘image of God,’ cf. International Theological Commission, Communion and service, cap. 2.

[32] Cf. International Theological Commission, Dignity and rights of the human person, n. A.II.1; also Id., Communion and Stewardship, nn. 40-43.

[33] CCC, n. 1778

[34] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 19, a. 5, in Opera omnia iussu Leonis XIII P. M. edita, vol. 6, Ex Typographia Polyglotta, Romae 1891, 145-146.

[35] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 16.

[36] Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (18 November 1965), n. 5.

[37] Cf. International Theological Commission, Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past (2000), n. 5.3.

[38] Virgil describes how the goddess Juno against Aeneas sends Alecto to sow seeds of hate and division in the hearts of the inhabitants of Lazio, this resulted in a cruel war of jealousy, hatred, and rancour, whereby the young hero is unable to achieve his mission. Cf. Vergilii, Aeneis, VII, 341-405 in: O. Ribbeck (ed.), P. Vergilii Maronis Opera, Lipsiae, Teubner 1895, 554-557, tr. it., Virgilio, Eneide, vol. IV, Fondazione Lorenco Valla – Arnoldo Mondadori Editori, Rome – Milan 2008, 28-32.

[39] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 25a: “Man's social nature makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself depend on one another. For the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person which for its part and by its very nature stands completely in need of social life”.

[40] Cf. Kant, Critica della ragion pratica, Editori Laterza, Bari 1997, Parte I, lib. I, cap. III, A 156 (191). International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic, n. 84: “The person is at the centre of the political and social order because he is an end and not a means”.

[41] Cf. ibid., n. 41; Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 110, 149.

[42] Cf. International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic, n. 38.

[43] Cf. Id., Communion and Stewardship, nn. 41-45; Id., Faith and Inculturation, n. 1.6.

[44] Cf. J. Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, “La moltiplicazione dei diritti e la distruzione dell’idea di diritto” in : Liberare la libertà. Fede e politica nel Terzo Millennio, Cantagalli, Siena 2018, 9-15.

[45] On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Holy See recalled attention to the problem today of the arbitrary recognition of mere preferences and inclinations, ideologically manipulated, that have little to do with authentic human rights. In many cases the acceptability of these opinions has little to do with the notion of the common good. (cf. Mons. S. M. Tommasi, Address during the sixth ordinary session of the Council for Human Rights, 10 December, Geneva.)

[46] International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, n. 36.

[47] John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem (15 August 1988(, nn. 12-16: AAS 80 (1988), 1681-1692.

[48] Cf. Id,. Familiaris consortio (22 November 1981), nn. 22-24: AAS 74 (1982), 84-91; iD., Mulieris dignitatem, n.1 AAS 88 (1988), 1653-1655.

[49] Cf. Id., Familiaris consortio, nn. 4-10, 36-41: AAS 74 (1982), 84-91, 126-133. Francis identifies current challenges in Amoris Laetitia (19 March 2016), nn. 50-57: AAS 108 (2016), 331-335. Cf. International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic, nn. 35, 92.

[50] For the noted contributions of P. Ricoeur see, Temps et récit. 1. L’intrigue et le récit historique, Le Seuil, Paris, 1983.

[51] Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, nn. 7-8; Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964), nn. 3-4 et passim. Also, International Theological Commission, Select Themes of Ecclesiology (1984), n. 1.1-5.

[52] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 151.

[53] See also, J. Habermas – J. Ratzinger, Ragione e fede in dialogo. Le idee di Benedetto XVI a confront con un grande filosofo. Marsilio, Venezia, 2005.

[54] Cf. Francis, Laudati si' (24 May 2015), nn. 137-162: AAS 107 (2015), 902-912.

[55] The concept of intermediary bodies originally belongs to the social doctrine of the Church. Already in Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (15 May 1891), proposed in nn. 10-11 (on the family) and in nn.38 and 41 (for other associations such as sodalities and societies): AAS 23 (1891) 646, 665-666; John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra (15 May 1961), N. 52: AAS 53 (1961), 414, affirms: “Moreover, We consider it altogether vital that the numerous intermediary bodies and corporate enterprises—which are, so to say, the main vehicle of this social growth—be really autonomous, and loyally collaborate in pursuit of their own specific interests and those of the common good. For these groups must themselves necessarily present the form and substance of a true community, and this will only be the case if they treat their individual members as human persons and encourage them to take an active part in the ordering of their lives.” John Paul II takes up this theme again in Centesimus annus (1 May 1991), n. 13: AAS 83 (1991), 809-810. The decisive point is that of intermediaries as opposed to bodies. Every intermediary group must be conscious of its mediatory function in the context of the whole of civil society in the service of the common good.

[56] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 185-186, 394; also, CCC, NN. 1880-1885 on the principal of subsidiarity.

[57] See also Inter mirifica (4 December 1963); John Paul II, The rapid development (24 January 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 188-190; Id., Redemptoris missio, n. 37: AAS 83 (1991), 282-286; Id., Message for the XXXVI World Day of Social Communication: “The Internet: A new forum to proclaim the Gospel” (24 January 2002): EV 21 (2002), 29-36; Francis, Message for the World Day of Social Communication: “Communication and Mercy: A fruitful encounter” (24 January 2016): AAS 108 (2016), 157-160; Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church and the Internet (2 February 2002), n. 4.

[58] Cf. S. C. Mimouni, Le jedaïsme ancient du VIe siècle avant notre ère au IIIe siècle de notre ère: des prêtres aux rabbins, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 2012, 7 SS.; 381 ss.; 397 ss.

[59] See comment in Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 379.

[60] Cf. C. Plini Secundi, Epist., X, 96 in R.A.B. Mynors (ed.), C. Plini Secundi epistularum libri devem, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1963, 338-340, tr. it., Plinio il Giovane, Lettere, Libro decimo. Il pangerico di Traiano, Zanichelli, Bologna 1986, 105-109.

[61] Persecution of the faith and the confession of the martyrs mark the reflection of Revelation, in light of that first faithful witness, Jesus Christ. (cf. Revelation 1:5; 7:9-17; 13-14; ecc.)

[62] Cf. sancti Aurelii Augustini, De civitate Dei, XIX, 17 (ccsl 48, 683-685).

[63] Augustine arrives at the conclusion of the necessary religious control of the State. This conclusion arises from the historical reality that heretics and schismatics appealed to civil authorities for recognition of legitimacy in regard to their deviations from the Christian faith. (cf. sancti Aurelii Augustini, Epistula XCIII, 12-13.17 [CCSL 31A, 175-176. 179-180]; also Epistula CLXXIII, 10 [PL 33, 757]; Sermo XLVI, 14 [CCSL 41, 541]).

[64] In a different historical context we have the following: Gelasius, Epistula “Famuli vestra pietatis” ad Anastasium I imperatorem (494; DenzH347). Cf. Leo XIII, Immortale Dei (I November 1885), n. 6: ASS 18 (1885), 166, one finds an appropriate distinction between the political and religious orders without a radical separation.

[65] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 76c. “The Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same men. The more that both foster sounder cooperation between themselves with due consideration for the circumstances of time and place, the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of all. For man's horizons are not limited only to the temporal order; while living in the context of human history, he preserves intact his eternal vocation.” See also the clarifications issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Doctrinal note concerning certain questions of the engagement and conduct of Catholics in political life (24 November 2002), n.6.

[66] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 167.

[67] Cf. ibid., n. 396.

[68] For a broader historical and sociological explanation of the development of the so-called ‘exclusive humanism,’ understood as a public reference point, see C. Taylor, A Secular Age, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge - Massachusetts

[69] Although contextually different, this phenomenon occurs in other continents such as Asia. “The limit to religious freedom in many circumstances expresses itself with the proviso, ‘admitting nothing to the contrary of civil rights and the public order, or right moral conduct.’ The common good and the public order are however defined in the cluster of power and on other occasions in the phrase, ‘subject to the law and to public order, or right moral conduct, it is utilised to negate de facto the freedom of certain groups’. (FABC Office of Theological Concerns, FABC Papers, n.112, “Religious Freedom in the Context of Asia,” 7) Above all in the situation of minorities, it is decisive that the authority of the State ensures the “equal respect for all religions”, in as much as they are capable of safeguarding the universal sense and the common good.

[70] Francis, Meeting with leaders of other religions and Christian denominations 21 September 2014), Tirana: Enchiridion Vaticanum. Official Documents of the Holy See, vol. 30 (2014), 1514-1524, 1515.

[71] In reference to this mentality the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminds believers, “none of the faithful however can use the principle of pluralism and secular autonomy in politics, in favour of situations that compromise or minimise the safeguarding of fundamental ethical requirements regarding the common good of society”. Doctrinal note concerning certain questions of the engagement and conduct of Catholics in political life, 24 November 2002, n.5.

[72] ‘You yourself, Mr President, have used the fine expression “laïcité positive” to characterize this more open understanding. At this moment in history when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance oflaïcitéis now necessary. In fact, it is fundamental, on the one hand, to insist on the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them; and, on the other hand, to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to – among other things – the creation of a basic ethical consensus in society’. Benedict XVI, Welcome ceremony and meeting with Heads of State, 12 September 2008, Paris.

[73] John Paul II used the category of the good of ‘coexistence’ regarding the family in Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), n. 15g: AAS 86 (1994), 897. Francis speaks of “… we are living with and alongside others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness, our affection.” Amoris Laetitia, n. 276: AAS 108 [2016], 421-422.

[74] Francis speaks of a “… third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction....” Homily on the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I, Redipuglia, 13 September 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 744.  

[75] According to the statistics of the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees about 68.5 million persons have been forced to leave their home, an ever-increasing number, of whom 25.4 million are refugees. (cf. date of consultation, 9 January 2019)

[76] Cf. Francis, Meeting for Religious Freedom with the Hispanic Community and Other Immigrants (26 September 2015). Philadelphia: AAS 107 (2015), 1047-1052. For a contemporary view see: C. Grüters – D. Dzananovic (ed.), Migration and Religious Freedom. Essays on the interaction between religious duty and migration law, Wolf Legal Publisher, Nijmegen 2018, 69-194.

[77] During the darkness of the War years, Pius XII reminded that the safeguarding of that elementary good is “the inalienable right of man for juridical safety, and by that very domain as a concrete right, protects against every arbitrary attack.” Radio message for Christmas Eve [24 December 1942], n. 4: AAS [1943], 21-22.

[78] Cf. Benedict XVI, Faith, Reason, and the University, Memories and Reflections” Meeting with the representatives of science (12 September 2006), Regensburg: AAS 98 (2006), 728-739.

[79] Cf, for certain magisterial reference concerning reciprocity in international relations: John XXIII, Pacem in terris, n. 15: AAS 55 (1963), 261; Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam, n. 112: AAS 56 (1964), 657; John Paul II, Meeting with the young Muslims, 19 August 1985, Casablanca: AAS 78 (1986), 99; “Therefore, respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom. They favour peace and agreement between the peoples. They help to resolve together the problems of today's men and women, especially those of the young.”; Id., Es. Ap. Ecclesia in Europa (28 June 2003), n. 57: AAS 95 (2003), 684-685; Benedict XVI, Meeting with the diplomatic corps of the Republic of Turkey (28 November 2006), Ankara: AAS 98 (2006), 905-909; Id., Meeting with the representatives of other religions (17 April 2008), Washington D.C.: AAS 100 (2008), 327-330, also, Verbum Domini (30 September 2010), n. 120 invitation to reciprocity in regards to religious freedom: AAS 102 (2010), 783-784.

[80] See also the reports on religious freedom throughout the world in Kirche in Not (, consulted 9 January 2019) or Pew Research Center (, consulted 9 January 2019).

[81] Cf. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (25 March 1995), nn. 73-74: AAS 87 (1995), 486-488.

[82] Sancti Ambrosii Med., Epist. Extra col,. 14,96, in M. Zelzer (ed.) Epistularum liber decimus. Epistulae extra collectionem. Gesta concili Aquileiensis (CSEL 82/3), Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, Vindobonae 1982, 287, tr. it., Saint Amrose, Discourses and Letters II/III (Sancti Ambrosii Episcopi Mediolanesis Opera 21), Biblioteca Ambrosiana – Città Nuova, Milan-Rome 1988, 212-213.

[83] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Ad gentes (7 December 1965), n. 12. For a concrete example of local Churches implementing the teaching of Ad gentes n.12, see; FABC, FABC Papers, n. 138, “FABC at Forty Years: Responding to the Challenges of Asia: 10th FABC Plenary Assembly, 10-16 December 2012, Vietnam.”

[84] On the relationship between anthropology and Christology see, International Theological Commission, Select questions on Christology (1979), n. III; Theology, Christology, Anthropology (1981), n. I.d; Communion and Stewardship, n. 52.

[85] Cf. John Paul II, Redemptor hominis, n. 10: AAS 71 (1979), 274-275.

[86] Cf. Francis, Laudato sí, nn.115-121: AAS 107 (2015), 893-895.

[87] Cf. Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, nn 93-97: AAS 105 (2013), 1059-1061.

[88] Francis, Meeting for Religious Liberty with the Hispanic Community and Other Immigrants (26 September 2015). Philadelphia: AAS 107 (2015), 1047-1052.

[89] Cf. Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam, nn. 67-81: ASS 56 (1964), 640-645; John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, n. 55: AAS 83 (1991), 302-304; Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 250-251: AAS 105 (2013), 1120-1121. See also the collected works on this topic by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Francesco Gioia), Il dialogo interreligioso nell’insegnamento ufficiale della Chiesa Cattolica (1963-2013), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, 2013.

[90] Cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia in Asia (6 November 1999), n. 31: AAS 92 (2000), 501-503.

[91] Ibid., n. 29: AAS 92 (2000), 498-499.

[92] John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, n. 57: AAS 83 (1991), 305.

[93] Second Vatican Council, Ad gentes, n. 12.

[94] Second Vatican Council, Nostra aetate, n. 2.

[95] Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis humanae, nn. 2-4.

[96] Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam, n. 91: AAS 56 (1964), 648-649.

[97] “No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.” Francis, Meeting with the leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations (21 September 2014), Tirana: EV 30 (2014), 1514-1524, 1518.

[98] Cf. International Theological Commission, God the Trinity and the Unity of Humanity, n. 64.

[99] The paradoxical force of the unitive power of love unto martyrdom one sees in the exceptional witness of Fr Christian de Chergé, Prior of the Cistercian Monastery of Notre-Dame d’Atlas, Thibririne. He was beatified together with eighteen other martyrs in Algeria, 8 December 2018. Cf. Christian de Chergé, Lettres à un ami fraternal, Bayard, Paris 2015, tr. it., Lettere a un amico fraterno, Urbaniana University Press, Città del Vaticano 2017, 343-348.

[100] Francis, To the Members of the Consulta of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre (16 November 2018): in LOsservatore Romano 21 Novembre, Anno CLVIII/262 (2018), 8.