Archbishop says Church does not impose civil laws

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, The Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, says the Church does not impose any piece of civil legislation and intervenes only on moral questions to defend religious freedom and human rights.

According to the Vatican Information Service, the Archbishop made the remarks in an interview with the Indonesian newspaper Kompas in which the prelate dwelt on such topics as the special status of Vatican City State, the Holy See's diplomatic activity, the separation between Church and State, and inter-religious dialogue.

He said the Church operates on "the fundamental principle of distinction between political and religious spheres and firm protection for religious freedom."

"Just as the State does not interfere in the activities of the Church, so it does not take orders from her," he said.

"The Church - in practice, the bishops in the countries concerned - seeks to illuminate Catholics and public opinion ... using public declarations to explain the Catholic position on the moral questions that arise from political activity and legislation, and adopting above all rational arguments accessible even to those without faith."

Whether the church intervenes or not will depend on various criteria, the prelate said. But "the Church cannot in any case remain silent when the dignity or the fundamental rights of mankind, or religious freedom, are in question."

Archbishop Lajolo also told Kompas that the Holy See has "a vast network of embassies (known technically as 'apostolic nunciatures') all over the world."

Unlike other embassies, Archbishop Lajolo said, nunciatures do not concern themselves with "political questions, defence or trade, but with matters concerning the freedom of the Church and human rights.

"Mostly, the Holy See intervenes to guarantee the juridical status of the Church and, in some countries, to defend Catholic faithful who may be oppressed or subject to pressure and discrimination," he said.

Closing his interview by turning to the question of dialogue between different faiths, the secretary for Relations with States affirmed that Benedict XVI will continue, just as his predecessors did, "the commitment to inter-religious dialogue."

After highlighting the dangers of a "conflict of cultures" or religions to the Indonesian newspaper, the Archbishop points out that "inter-religious dialogue aims at a better understanding of the faith of others and at making one's own faith better known, as well as at reinforcing mutual bonds of personal respect. ... It does not aim to make those who participate in it less faithful to their own profound religious convictions, but to open minds and hearts ever more to the will of God."

Archbishop Lajolo: The Church does not impose civil laws (Vatican Information Service 21/4/06 - temporary url)

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24 Apr 2006