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."


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."


Teachings of Christ

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

Lamb and Redeemer

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

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

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge praise You in song: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you." (Proverbs 3:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Self-accusation before God is something that is very necessary for us; and humility of heart is extremely advantageous in our lives, above all at the time of prayer. For prayer requires great attention and needs a proper awareness, otherwise it will turn out to be unacceptable and rejected, and 'it will be turned back empty' to our bosom.

Martyrius of Edessa