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Friday, April 21, 2006


VATICAN CITY, APR 21, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences seven prelates from the Ghana Bishops' Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast.

    - Bishop John Martin Darko of Sekondi-Takoradi.

    - Bishop Joseph Francis Kweku Essien of Wiawso.

    - Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra.

    - Bishop Gabriel Akwasi Abiabo Mante of Jasikan

    - Bishop Anthony Kwami Adanuty of Keta-Akatsi.

    - Msgr. Anthony Kornu, vicar general of Ho.
AL/.../...                                        VIS 20060421 (90)


VATICAN CITY, APR 21, 2006 (VIS) - On April 16, the Indonesian newspaper "Kompas" published an interview with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, 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.

  In his interview, the archbishop points out how the name "Vatican" is often used to refer to two very different things: There is Vatican City State, which is a country in its own right, "though of minuscule political substance, and having the sole purpose of guaranteeing the independence of the Pope, as supreme authority of the Catholic Church, from any form of civil jurisdiction." And there is the Holy See, which is "the Pope and the Roman Curia, ... and is sometimes commonly though incorrectly referred to as the Vatican because it has its headquarters in Vatican City State. But the Holy See is not an organ of civil government and hence does not have political functions. Therefore, the problem of confusion or overlap between the two functions - the political function of the State and the religious function of the Church - does not arise."

  The archbishop continues by explaining that, while the external relations of Vatican City State "are of modest proportions and directed above all to Italy and to a few international organizations for such matters as post and telecommunications," the Holy See has "a vast network of embassies (known technically as 'apostolic nunciatures') all over the world."

  Unlike other embassies, Archbishop Lajolo goes on, nunciatures do not concern themselves with "political questions, defense 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; and it does so by invoking the rights endorsed in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or even those ratified by the Constitutions of particular States. ... There are various criteria for intervention depending on the situation, and they are naturally inspired by the will to help in the most effective way possible, and hence with the necessary prudence and reserve to ensure there are no negative repercussions."

  On the subject of the separation of Church and State, the archbishop says: "The Church in no way seeks to impose any piece of civil legislation, if political forces do not themselves take it up. The fundamental principle of distinction between political and religious spheres and firm protection for religious freedom applies, according to which, just as the State does not interfere in the activities of the Church, so it does not take orders from her. 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."

  "At a universal level, the Holy See intervenes on the great moral questions posed by politics through such documents as papal Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations, and the instructions issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Various criteria are used to judge where it is appropriate to intervene, but the Church cannot in any case remain silent when the dignity or the fundamental rights of mankind, or religious freedom, are in question."

  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 how "a conflict of cultures, or worse still of religions, could divide people even more than they are already divided," 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."

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