ROME — The Vatican Secretary of State decried the “appalling number of innocent persons that suffer persecution because of their beliefs, including many Christians” on Wednesday, noting that these violations “often occur with impunity and at times receiving little, if any, attention in the media.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s number-two man, said that this persecution constitutes “an aggressive attack that strikes at the very core of the enjoyment of fundamental human rights” in an address at the symposium “Stand Together to Defend International Religious Freedom” organized by the United States Embassy to the Holy See in Rome.
Last month the international media gave top billing to the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, while ignoring completely the Muslim slaughter of hundreds of Christians in Nigeria.
No major U.S. news outlet bothered to cover the attacks by Fulani jihadists against Christians in central Nigeria, who employed machetes and gunfire to slaughter men, women, and children, burning down over 140 houses, destroying property, and spreading terror.
Meanwhile, twelve French churches were vandalized in the period of just one week and the persecution of Christians in India jumped by a reported 57 percent, but neither of these stories was deemed worthy of significant media attention.
In his address Wednesday, Cardinal Parolin said that “those involved in the area of media and social communications must bring to light those realities that threaten the common good of the human family. Crass violations of the freedom of religion should be numbered among such threats.”
“Despite so many efforts to promote and reinforce the fundamental human right of religious freedom, we are actually witnessing a continued deterioration, we might even say an assault, of this inalienable right in many parts of the world,” the cardinal lamented.
The right to religious freedom, the cardinal continued, is not a concession by the State, but a “God-given gift, indeed a gift rooted in the transcendent dimension of human nature.”
“Clearly, civil authorities have the obligation to protect and defend religious freedom, but not in the sense of being its author, but rather its custodian,” he said.
The Vatican prelate also insisted that religious liberty is not only freedom of private belief or worship, but rather entails “the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from religious principles.”
“This is a great challenge in the globalized world, where weak convictions also lower the general ethical level, and in the name of a false concept of tolerance, it ends in persecuting those who defend their faith,” he said.
As examples of the battleground for religious liberty in the Western world, the cardinal spoke of the ideological conflict between religious freedom and newly proclaimed “rights” to abortion and gay marriage.
The exercise of religious freedom, he said, “especially in the public square, with regard to the institution of marriage or concerning the inviolable right to all human life, often runs up against the so-called ‘new rights’ that tend to present themselves in complete contradiction with, or encroach upon, these fundamental human rights.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome