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Pope urges states to respect freedom of religion

Pope Benedict XVI arrives with Baroness Warsi at the meeting of religious leaders earlier today (Photo: PA)

Pope Benedict XVI told religious leaders at St Mary’s, Twickenham, today that successful interfaith dialogue requires freedom of religion and freedom of conscience to be respected across the world.

He said: “Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has placed special emphasis on the importance of dialogue and cooperation with the followers of other religions. In order to be fruitful, this requires reciprocity on the part of all partners in dialogue and the followers of other religions.

“I am thinking in particular of situations in some parts of the world, where cooperation and dialogue between religions calls for mutual respect, the freedom to practise one’s religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one’s conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another.

“Once such a respect and openness has been established, peoples of all religions will work together effectively for peace and mutual understanding, and so give a convincing witness before the world.

He made the comments in an address to the chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Dr Khaled Azzam, chief executive of the Prince’s School for Traditional Arts, and Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, head of the bishops’ conference department for interreligious dialogue, among other religious leaders and “people of faith”. They were gathered at the Waldegrave Drawing Room at St Mary’s, Twickenham.

The Pope said: “On the spiritual level, all of us, in our different ways, are personally engaged in a journey that grants an answer to the most important question of all – the question concerning the ultimate meaning of our human existence.

“The quest for the sacred is the search for the one thing necessary, which alone satisfies the longings of the human heart.”