Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Pope speaks out against 'increasing marginalisation' of Christianity

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Lambeth Palace in the 'Popemobile' for the short journey to Westminster Hall
Pope Benedict XVI leaves Lambeth Palace in the 'Popemobile' for the short journey to Westminster Hall
Pope Benedict XVI meets Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace
Pope Benedict XVI greets former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher in Westminster Hall
Pope Benedict XVI during a Celebration of Evening Prayer, at Westminster Abbey
Former British Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Baroness Thatcher, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg await Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall
Dean of Westminster John Hall (R) escorts Pope Benedict XVI (2nd R) as he arrives at Westminster Abbey
Pope Benedict XVI leaves Westminster Hall in the 'Popemobile' in central London
Former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair (right) and Gordon Brown await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall, London
Pope Benedict XVI is embraced by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams during a Celebration of Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown greets Cherie Blair as they wait for Pope Benedict XVI to arrive to give a speech at Westminster Hall, London
Pope Benedict XVI is embraced by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams during a Celebration of Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey
Pope Benedict XVI crosses Lambeth Bridge on his way to the Houses of Parliament after meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury
Pope Benedict XVI crosses Lambeth Bridge on his way to the Houses of Parliament after meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury
Pope Benedict XVI crosses Lambeth Bridge on his way to the Houses of Parliament after meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury
Pope Benedict XVI greets a young child as he arrives for a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in SW London
Pope Benedict XVI during The Big Assembly a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in London
Pope Benedict XVI during The Big Assembly a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in London
MP Peter Tatchell joins other protesters during a demonstration, as Pope Benedict XVI arrives at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in South West London
MP Peter Tatchell joins other protesters during a demonstration, as Pope Benedict XVI arrives at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in South West London
Pope Benedict XVI during The Big Assembly a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in London
Pope Benedict XVI during The Big Assembly a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in London
People look on as Pope Benedict XVI attends The Big Assembly a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in London
A school girl holds a decorated crucifix and a Papal flag as she watches Pope Benedict XVI at The Big Assembly gathering at St Mary's University College during day two of his four day state visit at Twickenham
Benedict XVI arrives for a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in London
A nun passes through a security checkpoint during preparations for Pope Benedict XVI visit to St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in south west London
Children with their cameras await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for his visit to St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in south west London
A nun walks past police officers during preparations for Pope Benedict XVI arrival at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in south west London
Police motorcyclists prepare for Pope Benedict XVI arrival at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in south west London
Pope Benedict XVI greets school children as he arrives at St Mary's University College at Twickenham
Signs on the pavement outside St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in south west London, before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI travels in the back of a car as he passes protestors on his arrival at St Mary's University College during day two of his four day state visit to the United Kingdom at Twickenham
Protestors are watched by police before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for his visit to St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in south west London
Pope Benedict XVI during a mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow
Pope Benedict XVI during a mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow
Pope Benedict XVI arrives for the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park on September 16, 2010 in Glasgow
Pope Benedict XVI during a mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow
Susan Boyle performs at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, ahead of an open-air mass by Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI kisses a young child as he arrives for the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park on September 16, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland
Baby Maria Tyszczak with her mother Marzena Tyszczak, who Pope Benedict XVI blessed, as he arrived at Glasgow's Bellahouston Park ahead of an open-air mass during the first day of a four day visit to the United Kingdom
Guests wait to greet Pope Benedict XVI in the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse during day one of his four day state visit to the United Kingdom
The Reverend Ian Paisley joined a protest in Edinburgh against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI
A demonstrator in Edinburgh as Pope Benedict XVI begins his first papal state visit to the UK
Joseph O'Driscoll originally from Dublin protests with a placard along Lothian Road, Edinburgh ahead of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in the city earlier in the day for a four day visit to the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI pass Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond (left) as they walk through the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
The Reverend Ian Paisley (right) joins a protest in Edinburgh against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in the city earlier in the day for a four day visit to the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI walk through the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh listen as Pope Benedict XVI addresses a crowd in the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI meet school children outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland, on September 16, 2010 in Edinburgh
Pilgrims gather before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park on September 16, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland
Pilgrims gather ahead of the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow
Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI meet school children outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland
The Reverend Ian Paisley joins a protest in Edinburgh against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in the city earlier in the day for a four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI rides in the Popemobile down Edinburgh's Princes Street on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI rides in the Popemobile down Edinburgh's Princes Street on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI rides in the Popemobile down Edinburgh's Princes Street on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
The Reverend Ian Paisley joins a protest in Edinburgh against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in the city earlier in the day for a four day visit to the United Kingdom
The Reverend Ian Paisley speaks to the press outside the Magdalen Chapel, Edinburgh, after protesting against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in the city earlier in the day for a four day visit to the United Kingdom
The Reverend Ian Paisley speaks to the press outside the Magdalen Chapel, Edinburgh, after protesting against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in the city earlier in the day for a four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI rides in the Popemobile down Edinburgh's Princes Street on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI rides in the Popemobile down Edinburgh's Princes Street on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI rides in the Popemobile down Edinburgh's Princes Street on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI replaces his zucchetto after the British national anthem is played during his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Members of the public in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park ahead of an open-air mass by Pope Benedict XVI, as he begins the first papal state visit to the UK
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh talk with Pope Benedict XVI during an audience in the Morning Drawing Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh walk with Pope Benedict XVI to the Morning Drawing Room in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II exchanges gifts with Pope Benedict XVI during an audience in the Morning Drawing Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh
Queen Elizabeth II greets Pope Benedict XVI at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II meets Pope Benedict XVI as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (left) and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond (right) watch on at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI replaces his zucchetto as he meets with Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI replaces his zucchetto as he meets with Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on the first day of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI is met by the Duke of Edinburgh as he arrives in Scotland to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
Pope Benedict XVI is met by the Duke of Edinburgh as he arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland, to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
Pope Benedict XVI is met by the Duke of Edinburgh (left) as he arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland, to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
A close up view of the shoes worn by Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives in Scotland to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland, to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland, to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
The altar at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, where Pope Benedict XVI will preside over an open-air mass on the first day of his four-day visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Scotland to begin the first papal state visit to the UK
Merchandise commemorating the State Papal visit at grounds of Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, ahead of a mass by Pope Benedict
Flag sellers in Edinburgh ahead of the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in, where he will begin the first papal state visit to the UK
The altar at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, where Pope Benedict XVI will preside over an open-air mass on the first day of his four-day visit to the United Kingdom
Preparations continue at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, where Pope Benedict XVI will preside over an open-air mass on the first day of his four-day visit to the United Kingdom
Preparations continue at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, where Pope Benedict XVI will preside over an open-air mass on the first day of his four-day visit to the United Kingdom
A member of the public wearing a kilt and holding a bag commemorating the State Papal visit at grounds of Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, ahead of a mass by Pope Benedict
The grounds of Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, ahead a mass by Pope Benedict
An advert on a billboard by the Good Without God organization in Glasgow ahead of a visit by Pope Benedict
Merchandise commemorating the State Papal visit at grounds of Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, ahead of a mass by Pope Benedict
Members of the public await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he will begin the first papal state visit to the UK
Staff at Edinburgh Airport prepare the red carpet for Pope Benedict XVI ahead of his arrival there at the start of his four day visit to the United Kingdom
The papal chair at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, where Pope Benedict XVI will preside over an open-air mass on the first day of his four-day visit to the United Kingdom

Pope Benedict XVI last night criticised the "increasing marginalisation" of Christianity, arguing that religion should be recognised for its "vital" contribution to the nation.

The Pontiff told MPs, peers, and religious leaders in Westminster Hall that there were "worrying signs" of a failure to appreciate the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and the "legitimate" role of religion in public life.

In his speech, the Pope said he was voicing his concern at the growing marginalisation of religion - particularly of Christianity - even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.





"There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or least relegated to the purely private sphere," he said.





"There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.





"And there are those who argue - paradoxically, with the intention of eliminating discrimination - that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience."





The Pope's remarks are likely to be interpreted as aimed in part at the failure of the Catholic adoption agencies to retain the right to refuse gay couples as potential adoptive parents.





The Church has also come under fire over the right to run faith schools and whether it should be allowed to bar sexually active gay people from key appointments.





In his speech, the Pope highlighted Catholic martyr St Thomas More, who was tried in Westminster Hall and sentenced to death in 1535.





The Pope paid tribute to the role of Parliament and its influence in developing democratic Government across the world.





He said Catholic social teaching had "much in common" with the approach of Britain's democracy with its "strong sense" of the individual's rights and duties and of the equality of all citizens before the law.





Former prime ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Sir John Major and Baroness Thatcher were all present in Westminster Hall to hear the speech.





The Pope also highlighted areas of common concern shared by the Holy See and the Government.





There had been collaboration on debt relief, fair trade and financing for development through initiatives such as the International Finance Facility (IFF), he said.





The present Government has committed the UK to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013, he said.





In recent years, he said, it had been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor.





But he said turning this into effective action called for "fresh thinking" to improve conditions in areas such as food production, clean water, job creation, education and support to families.





"Where human lives are concerned, time is always short - yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed 'too big to fail'," he said.





"Surely the integral human development of the world's peoples is no less important - here is an enterprise, worthy of the world's attention, that is truly 'too big to fail'."



Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "The Pope's statements concerning the alleged 'increasing marginalisation of religion' were a parody of the real situation in the UK, where politicians increasingly move to expand state-funded religious schools, contract public services out to religious organisations and act in other ways that privilege religious beliefs and organisations in such a disproportionate and discriminatory manner."



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