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Pope says states should not fear religious symbols

Reacting to disputes in France and Italy on religious symbols in schools, Pope John Paul said on Friday that governments are wrong to fear that public displays of faith could undermine their authority.

In his remarks, the Holy Father denied that the display of religious symbols could encourage acts of intolerance. Without specifically referring to recent controversies, he said: "Let's not be afraid to talk of God and wear the signs of the faith with pride."

The comments were contained in the apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, released on Friday.

France last month began applying a law banning "conspicuous religious symbols" from state schools, including Muslim headscarves, Jewish kippas and large Christian crosses. While most attention in France has focused on headscarves, some state school principals there this month began turning away Catholic chaplains because the priests were wearing a cassock, a traditional black robe.

Meanwhile Pope John Paul II told a group of American bishops from the New York region that the role of the bishops is "one of service, not of honour, and therefore a bishop should strive to benefit others rather than to lord it over them."

The bishop's job is not simply "administering" a diocese, but to "building up the Kingdom of God," he said. The Pope urged the US bishops to strengthen the spiritual lives of their people, so that they in turn could bring the Gospel message to society.

John Paul II praised the American bishops for their outspoken defense of the right to life, and their efforts to promote world peace. He encouraged them to be equally forthright in combating the decline in practice among American Catholics-- particularly the steady drop in Mass attendance and use of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope says states should not fear religious symbols (Reuters/Yahoo 8/10/04)
Pope calls for interational community commitment against world poverty (Missionary Service News Agency 8/10/04)

Pope Urges Public Displays of Faith (Associated Press/ 8/10/04)
Monsignor Migliore, "Increased reliance on guns is making world less secure" (Missionary Service News Agency 8/10/04)
Episcopal Conferences Aid But Don't Substitute Bishop, Says Pope (Zenit 8/10/04)
Title of bishop is of service, not power, Pope tells American Bishops (Catholic News Agency 8/10/04)
"Ideologies of Evil," as Remembered by John Paul II (Zenit 8/10/04)
Pope to publish new book : 'Memory and Identity' (Independent Catholic News/Vatican Information Service 8/10/04)
Pope Urges Public Displays of Faith (Associated Press/ 8/10/04)
Bishop's role is service, Pope tells US prelates (Catholic World News 8/10/04)
Pope says states should not fear religious symbols (Reuters/Yahoo 8/10/04)
"The title of bishop is one of service, not of honor" (Vatican Information Service 8/10/04)

11 Oct 2004