News / Europe

Pope Benedict Defends Legitimate Role of Religion in Society

Pope Benedict XVI voiced his concern Friday at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, in a major address in Westminister Hall, attended by British politicians, businessmen and cultural leaders. He spoke on the same day British police arrested five men believed to be planning an attack.

Pope Benedict on Friday defended what he called the legitimate role of religion in the public square. He was addressing an 1,800-strong audience in Westminister Hall. It was the first time a pontiff has come to speak in this venue, where in 1535 the Catholic martyr Saint Thomas More was tried for treason and condemned to death.

Among those present were politicians, businessmen, cultural leaders and four former British prime ministers: Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

In his address, the pope praised Britain as a pluralist society, which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and the respect for the rule of law. But he expressed concern at the increasing marginalization of society even in nations, which place a great emphasis on tolerance.

"There are those that advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere," Pope Benedict said. "There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged."

There are also those who argue, the pope added, that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience.

"These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square."

Pope Benedict urged those present, within their respective spheres of influence, to promote and encourage dialogue between faith and reason.

Earlier the pope met with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Communion, at Lambeth Palace. The meeting came amid new tensions following Benedict's unprecedented decision last year to make it easier for Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women bishops to convert to Catholicism.

Benedict said he had no intention of speaking of existing difficulties. Instead, he focused on the need for Christians to work together.

Early Friday morning, British police raided a cleaning depot in central London and arrested five people, believed to be of Algerian origin. They were arrested under the Terrorism Act after police received information about a possible security threat, possibly related to the pope.

The Vatican said the pope was informed of the arrests and was calm. Officials said security measures for his trip were reviewed and were deemed to be appropriate. No changes were made to his schedule.

The pope's security on this trip has been visibly higher than on previous foreign trips, and Vatican officials have acknowledged that Britain represents a higher security threat than the other European countries Benedict has visited this year.

On Friday evening, the pope was to celebrate evening prayers at Westminster Abbey.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid