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Cardinal Kasper's Statement to Moscow Summit

7/6/2006 - 5:45 AM PST

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"There Cannot Be Peace Without Justice Grounded on Mutual Respect"

MOSCOW, JULY 6, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is Cardinal Walter Kasper's statement made at the Summit of World Religious Leaders being held in Moscow. Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, headed the Holy See's delegation at this meeting.

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The delegation of the Catholic Church sent by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI expresses its profound appreciation and gratitude for the initiative which His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II has taken, and we are grateful for the invitation to this summit which was extended to us together with other world religious leaders.

I. We regard this summit as important, urgent and very timely in the face of so many problems, conflicts, challenges and dramatic situations in our world today:

-- We are concerned about the problem of peace. We are threatened by ethnic, cultural, national and unfortunately also religious tensions and conflicts; we are confronted with the problem of international terrorism, which misuses religious ideas for perverse ideological purposes, kills innocent people indiscriminately, and spreads fear and horror among the population.

-- We are concerned about the problem of justice in our world, where more than two thirds of the world's population live in inhuman conditions of poverty and misery, whereas others live in prosperity and affluence. In addition, there are situations of exploitation, of discrimination and of oppression of human freedom and of fundamental human rights.

-- We are concerned about the situation of secularism, especially in the Western world, which deprives human values, both personal and social, of their ultimate religious foundation orientation. As a consequence they are marginalized and made relative to the point that relativism and tolerance themselves become intolerant and oppressive. We lament especially the decline of family values.

Finally, secularism destroys religiously founded cultural traditions and leaves people, particularly young people, without moral and religious orientation in a world empty of deeper meaning but full of offerings for superficial and deceptive feelings of momentary happiness. Often alcohol or drugs are used as a support to live in such a world without meaning and as a substitute for authentic happiness.

Obviously, these are only some aspects. But they point clearly to the responsibility of all leaders, political as well as religious; they make us aware of the particular responsibility which religious leaders have in this situation, and I would add: They make us aware of how urgent is the shared responsibility which religious leaders have for the restoration of the moral and social order, for justice and peace.

Christian contribution

II. What is the contribution that we as Christians and we as the Catholic Church have to offer? There is no simple recipe. Such a thing does not exist. But there are principles, which have not been invented yesterday or today, but have been proven by our millennial human experience and tradition, and are ultimately founded in divine revelation.

First: Respect for the human person, and I add, respect for each human person. Christians are convinced that God created the human being, male and female, in his image and likeness so that each human being, regardless of his or her ethnic, cultural, religious or national belonging is of immeasurable value and merits unconditional respect from other human beings.

Each individual has the fundamental right to live in a dignified way according to his or her culture and conviction. Such respect for each human person is the foundation for justice, as justice is the foundation for peace. There cannot be peace without justice grounded on mutual respect.

At the heart of the human person's very nature there stands one's religious conscience. Consequent to this is the moral obligation to follow one's religious calling and seek the truth, and therefore also the need to have free will in religious matters, including the possibility of changing one's religion or even professing oneself atheist.

Openness by states, religious authorities and civil leaders in this regard leads to the effective respect of religious liberty, which, together with Divine Providence, is at the heart of peace between nations, and between the different ethnic and religious groups living side by side in peace and cooperation.

But there cannot be human rights for the individual alone, without responsibility for others and for the common good. There is no freedom without personal and social responsibility; freedom of the individual person is possible only within the context of solidarity towards all.

We are critical of a collectivistic view, just as we are critical of a ...

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