Pope says Catholic leaders have a right to comment on policy debates
By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY, Mar. 30, 2006 (www.catholicnews.com) -- Catholic leaders have a right to comment on public policy debates in order to educate people's consciences and uphold justice, Pope Benedict XVI told politicians from Europe.
The pope met March 30 with about 500 participants in a conference sponsored by the European People's Party, a coalition of 38 political parties, including several Christian Democrat parties, active in Europe.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is part of the coalition, canceled his participation in the audience following accusations that a papal meeting could be seen as an endorsement less than two weeks before he faces re-election.
During the audience, Pope Benedict told the politicians they could "contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one's own religious convictions."
Aggressively resisting any mention of religious values in public debates is "the enemy of tolerance and of a sound secular vision of state and society," he said.
When Catholic leaders speak about public issues, he said, they are not trying to convert people to Catholicism, but to defend human dignity.