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Cardinal Says Christians Face Discrimination

Pope Benedict XVI greets a young man at the Vatican on 1 December who was injured when the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, Iraq, was attacked on 31 October. The Italian foreign ministry arranged for 26 injured Iraqis, including three children, and 21 accompanying family members to fly to Rome for treatment of their injuries soon after the incident. (Photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photos)  

02 Dec 2010 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The international community must begin fighting discrimination against Christians with the same determination it shows in opposing intolerance and discrimination against members of other religious groups, said the Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Dec. 1, “It has been widely documented that Christians are the most persecuted and discriminated against religious group. More than 200 million of them, belonging to different confessions, find themselves in difficulty because of legal and cultural structures.”

The cardinal addressed top officials of 56 countries represented at the organization’s summit meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Vatican released the text of his speech.

Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe include European countries, the United States and Canada, Turkey, Russia and the Central Asian republics that once were part of the Soviet Union.

“Religious life, an important factor for the social and culture life of countries, is threatened not only by oppressive restrictions, but also by relativism and a false secularism that excludes religion from public life,” the cardinal told summit participants.

Cardinal Bertone said an OSCE study in 2009 found evidence of anti-Christian discrimination “in different forms within the entire area” of the organization’s membership.

“In some countries, there are still intolerant and discriminatory laws, decisions, behaviors, actions and omissions” that deny full religious freedom for Christians, he said.

“Recurring episodes of violence, and even the assassination of Christians, has been registered,” he said in a reference that apparently included the killing of a priest in Turkey in 2006 and a bishop there in June.

“Excessive restrictions remain on the registration of churches and religious communities,” he said, apparently referring to some parts of the former Soviet Union.

In other places, the cardinal said, there are signs of “illegitimate interference” in the organization and operation of faith-based agencies, which have a right to be free “to act in a manner consistent with their moral convictions.”

“The international community must combat intolerance and discrimination against Christians with the same determination that it battles hatred for members of other religious communities,” Cardinal Bertone said.