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Brazil needs healthy secularism, Pope tells envoy

Catholic World News - November 02, 2011

As he welcomed a new ambassador from Brazil to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI said that a healthy secularism “must not consider religion as a mere individual sentiment, relegated to the private sphere, but as a reality which, being organised into visible structures, requires public recognition of its presence.”

The Pope said that religious groups should have the right not only to worship freely, but also to “practice their cultural, educational and charitable activities, when these do not contrast with morality or public order.” He illustrated his point by arguing that religious education in public schools is not a sign of state support for particular beliefs, but rather a recognition of the parents’ rights to educate their children.

The Pope reminded the new ambassador, Almir Franco de Sá Barbuda, that the Church contributes enormously to the public welfare in Brazil through educational, social, medical, and welfare programs. Moreover, he pointed to the long history of Church presence—beginning with the first Mass celebrated in Brazil, on April 26, 1500—and the testimony to Catholic influence that is unmistakable in the names of many Brazilian cities and in the monuments that dot the countryside, notably including the massive statute of Christ the Redeemer that looms over Rio de Janeiro.

In his comments to the new ambassador the Pope expressed his gratitude for Brazil’s decision to host the next worldwide celebration of World Youth Day, which will be held in Rio in 2103.

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