The situation in Iran and the challenge issued by this courageous Chaldean Bishop should cause us to pause and think as we enter into these Holy Days. This Bishop is correct; a culture without God has no future. He also asks us the right question, what are we doing with our freedoms? Pope Benedict reminds us that "A missionary Church known for proclaiming her message to all peoples must necessarily work for the freedom of the faith. She desires to transmit the gift of the truth that exists for one and all."
CHESAPEAKE,VA (Catholic Online) - I recently read a report from Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic Charity under the guidance of the Holy Father with a special mission to "help suffering and persecuted faithful worldwide. It was an interview with the Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Tehran, Ramzi Garmou. He gave the charity a message for Christians of the West, "Be aware of the value of the freedom that you enjoy."
Here is another excerpt from the report.It can be read in full here.
"He then challenged Western Christians to "make good use of their freedom," asking, "How do you use it in your countries?" He emphasized that they must not become "the slaves of a culture that seeks to drive God out of people's hearts," but rather that they should use their freedom to "propagate respect for human life." A culture without God leads to "death" and has "no future," he said.
"Christians in Iran only represent a small minority, yet "their vitality does not depend on their numbers but on the quality of their faith and their living witness." In their "day-to-day dialogue" with the Muslims, the Christians in Iran "give authentic witness to the values of the Gospels," he continued.
"The substantial emigration of Christians from Iran for political, economic and religious reasons represents a challenge, but Bishop Garmou emphasized that the Christian community in Iran does not let itself become discouraged. "Although we are our mothers' children, in truth we were sent to this country by God."
"He continued by saying that it is often forgotten today that the suffering endured for the Church is the "source of the life of the Church." He went on to say that such trials lead to the renewal and strengthening of the Church. Up to 99 percent of the population of the Islamic Republic of Iran is Muslim. Conversions from Islam are forbidden and punishable by death."
"Christians represent a minority of some 80,000, three-quarters of whom are Armenian Orthodox. The 20,000 Catholics living in Iran belong to three different Rites. They are permitted to practice their religion within their congregations at their places of worship, but they are not allowed to profess their faith openly, and missionary activity is forbidden."
Under the heroic leadership of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, we are standing against the growing encroachments against the fundamental right to Religious Liberty in our own country.
The most recent example is the HHS mandate which seeks to compel our institutions, through the use of the Police Power of the State, to offer contraception, abortion inducing drugs and pay for sterilization.
There is a silver lining in the cloud. This HHS Edict has given rise to a tide of resistance.We have found one another and we are standing together in a movement of solidarity and citizen action. Every single Catholic Bishop in the United States is in opposition to this egregious mandate.
We are also properly using the Courts.The Becket Fund and other good lawyers and law firms have filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of numerous Catholic apostolates. On Thursday, February 23, 2012, the attorneys general from Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Texas filed lawsuits opposing the unconstitutional mandate and the numbers are increasing almost daily.
There is a legislative response underway. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). It would ensure that all who participate in the health care system "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions." It has not yet been passed - but the efforts continue.
The situation in Iran and the challenge issued by this courageous Chaldean Bishop should cause us to pause and think as we enter into these Holy Days. This Bishop is correct; a culture without God has no future. He also asks us the right question, what are we doing with our freedoms?
In May of 2011, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences gathered in Rome for its 17th annual plenary session. Its theme was "Universal Rights in a World of Diversity - The Case of Religious Freedom". The gathering reflected the deep concerns the Holy See has over growing threats to the fundamental human right to Religious Freedom. Pope Benedict XVI is a Champion of Religious Liberty.
Pope Benedict XVI told the Pontifical Academy, "Since man enjoys the capacity for a free personal ...