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Ambassador: The US wants to be a global defender of religious freedom

Gage Skidmore--cc
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Holy See and the United States have this issue in common, says Gingrich

The defense of religious freedom is one of the priorities of US foreign policy, said Callista Gingrich, US ambassador to the Holy See, today at a symposium in Rome.

“It’s a dangerous time to be a person of faith,” said Callista Gingrich. “Repression, violence and discrimination are daily realities for millions of believers in every region of the world,” she added.

The diplomat cited Islamist terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, and religious restrictions in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also the positions of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro against the episcopate of his country.

Faced with this situation, the United States wants to be a “defender” of religious freedom in the world, assured the ambassador, seeing this as a shared concern of her country and the Holy See. The promotion of religious freedom has been a constant feature of American foreign policy since a 1998 law, she said.

Not just the freedom to practice

This commitment is “very important,” agreed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s Secretary of State. The cardinal noted that religious freedom is one of the “inalienable” rights of man, and state structures exist precisely to protect these rights. Promoting religious freedom, he continued, should not mean having a preference for a religious community, but recognizing “the equal dignity” of all people. 

During this conference, Archbishop (soon-to-be Cardinal) Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, testified to the situation of Christians in his country. While they can theoretically practice their faith by law, the right to change religions has not been guaranteed by the Constitution since the 1970s.

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