But China Showing Signs of Change

ROME, MARCH 19, 2007 (ZENIT.org).- The path toward religious freedom continues to be full of obstacles, concluded participants at a convention held in Rome.

"The Religious Dimension of Human Freedom" was organized by the Acton Institute last Wednesday at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. The seminar was part of an ongoing series marking the 1991 encyclical "Centesium Annus."

Father Robert Sirico, president of Acton, underlined that the "fundamental error of today's secularism is the misunderstanding of the true essence of human nature. John Paul II, in 'Centesimus Annus,' had already underlined the importance of religious freedom as the source of all other freedoms.

"Benedict XVI, for his part, has wished to distinguish between the two forms of secularism: the one which, justly distinguishes the religious sphere of power from the civil one, and the deteriorating secularism that wished to ban any sort of religious symbol, denying the fact of religious freedom."

Cardinal Julián Herranz said that the topic of religious freedom is especially important today: "This is a topic that has become urgent once again, following the spreading of religious fundamentalism, especially Islamic terrorism, but also lay fundamentalism typically European.

"Freedom of religion is in danger not only in China or in nations where the Shariah is in force, but also here in Europe, where, in many nations, the concept of the lay state has become confused and religious freedom has been interpreted as a concession, rather than a right to be guaranteed and promoted."

China

The case of China was considered at the lecture series.

Raphaela Maria Schmid, philosophy professor at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute, saw positive signs in the "progressive closeness between the patriotic church and the Church of Rome and the always increasing interest among the intellectual elite, in religion."

"The biggest obstacle, therefore," she said, "is the fact that the patriotic church has been 'tamed' by the regime, especially on themes such as birth control, and the Gospel is shaped and manipulated by social needs."

Father Bernardo Cervellera, missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and director of AsiaNews, spoke of growing religious conviction in China.

"According to government statistics, among the people in the one party almost 12 million people are tied to some religious organization, of those 5 million are regulars and convinced," he said. "Three hundred million believers -- 100 million according to official data -- in the whole nation are an authentic 'failure' to the regime.

"The comforting news is that this rebirth involves above all the young generations and people under 30 years old. The phenomenon [of religious rebirth] as was stated, involves the elite and the more cultured people and this definitely denounces the myth of an obscurantist religion."

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Teachings of Christ

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

Protection of the Mother of God

Protected by your coming, O Mother of God, * the faithful people celebrate today with splendor, * and, gazing at your most pure image, * we say with compunction: * "Shield us with your precious veil * and deliver us from all evil * imploring your Son, Christ our God, to save our souls.” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin stands forth in the Church, * and with the choirs of saints she invisibly prays to God for us. * The Angels worship with the hierarchs, * and the apostles exult with the prophets, * because, in our behalf, the Mother of God entreats the pre-eternal God. (Kontakion - Tone 3)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God on October 1st.

Random Proverb

"The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin." (Proverbs 10:10 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Do not pray that things may be according to your desires, for your desires are not always in keeping with the will of God. It is better to pray as you were taught, saying: "Thy will be done" (Matthew 6:10). Pray in this way about all things, for He always desires what is good and profitable for your soul, whereas you do not always seek it.

Saint Nilus of Mount Sinai: "153 Texts on Prayer"