“We would like religions to become engines of peace and, through serious and constructive interreligious dialogue, offer solutions to world conflicts, especially when they are manipulated to foment divisions.” It is the hope expressed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on the sidelines of an international conference on religious freedom organized in Rome by the US Embassy to the Holy See, the Community of Sant’Egidio and Aid to the Church in Need. “I attended the conference – Parolin said – precisely because, as you know, the Holy See is in the front line of defence and promotion of religious freedom, and is deeply concerned about the present situation whereby minority groups – ethnic and religious alike – are discriminated against, in most cases subjected to hostilities to the point of completely disappearing. In my opinion every initiative that is taken in this respect, every action undertaken, deserves being supported.” “Persecutions on religious grounds are growing at a dramatic pace”, Parolin said in the opening remarks during the meeting, assuring that “the Holy See will never cease denouncing the situations of discrimination involving all ethnic and religious groups. There is need for dialogue and reconciliation in order to mend these wounds and promote religious freedom.” “The Holy See encourages concrete initiatives in youth education and in terms of the role of religious leaders”, pointed out the Secretary of State. For “there can be no peace without the appropriate education of the young generations” and because everyone – governments and civil society alike – is called to challenge the notion “of violence in the name of religion.” However, religious leaders must play a special role: “They must unmask violence that tarnishes the image of religion and the name of God”, Parolin underlined. “Violence and religious belief are incompatible.” SIR interviewed him on the sidelines of the Conference.
Your Eminence, a Day of Reflection and Prayer on the tragic situation in the Middle East will take place in Bari on July 7. How important is the meeting for Pope Francis? And why? It’s very important to him; the initiative came from him. He wanted to involve all Christian Church leaders in a joint effort for peace, highlighting the contribution that Christian Churches can give at ecumenical level in response to the major problems of the Middle East, notably armed conflicts and the quest for peace.
What is the Pope and the Patriarchs’ message to the world and to the international community on the situation of persecuted Christians?
Their message is first of all one of closeness and support.
On many occasions these Christians need to feel the closeness of their brothers and sisters in the world. Sometimes immediate solutions are hard to find, but it’s important for them to know that the Church has their situation at heart. Then of course we shall highlight the contribution that Christian communities can give for the resolution of problems that involve the respect of the rights of every person and of all groups. I believe these are the main issues on the table.
The question of migratory inflows is another aspect closely linked to the situation in the Middle East. People fleeing from wars, hunger, poverty, persecution, cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. But sadly in the past few days it was announced that European ports will be closed for them. The question is: where is Europe? And, most of all, can closing ports to migrants be a solution?
It’s a major question: where is Europe? Is it still there? And, as the saying goes, “knock if your are there.”
I believe there must be a common response to this problem. Certainly, closing the ports is not a response. A response can only come from the collaboration of all European states. I believe that we must insist on this. The issue of migration is a challenge that requires the involvement of everyone. It cannot be shouldered by only a few Countries. There must be a common assumption of responsibility on the part of Europe and of the international community as a whole, but always in that spirit, in that horizon of humanity and solidarity which should always accompany our efforts in addressing such issues.
Will you address this issue during tomorrow’s meeting with president Macron? I will. It is one of the themes on the agenda of the meeting with the French President.
In the Concistory of June 28, Luis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, in Iraq, will be created Cardinal and the Middle East will have one more cardinal. How should we read this sign? It is evident that the Pope wished to underline his attention for this Country. An Iraq that is taking steps towards a solution and greater stability. Perhaps it’s the Middle Eastern Country that can offer greater hopes in the present moment. Also in the light of recent political developments.
It underlines a special attention for this area and we hope it will help strengthen the present signs of hope and peace.