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Religious Liberty in the Americas (2 of 2)

Report Published by Aid to the Church in Need

ROME, JULY 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is an adapted excerpt from a 2006 report by the charity Aid to the Church in Need on religious freedom worldwide. Subsequent excerpts will appear in the coming days.

Religious Liberty in the Americas (1) as published on Catholic Online.

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On Jan. 19 the archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, addressed a letter to the government on the subject of the controversial draft law that would legalize civil partnerships between homosexuals. In this letter, published by the daily newspaper Globe and Mail, the cardinal requested a broader debate, mentioning the possibility of appealing to the "non obstant" clause that would allow the decision to be postponed for five years.

The government promptly answered that the debate was now closed and that a very large number of courts had already expressed a favorable opinion on this draft law. The Supreme Court provided that individual churches will not be obliged to celebrate same-sex marriages if this should be openly in conflict with the doctrine they profess.

Another element worthy of mention is the Quebec provincial government's intention to eliminate by 2008 the teaching of the Catholic and Protestant religions in state schools, replacing these classes with lessons on ethics, religion in general and culture. In January the same government had stopped the establishment of a private Jewish school.

In April a court in the province of British Columbia decreed that is was compulsory for a 14-year-old Jehovah's Witness, suffering from cancer, to have a blood transfusion.


Catholics are experiencing difficult conditions in Ecuador, in the Galapagos archipelagos, where they risk isolation due to the obstacle imposed by the government, which -- to protect the particular ecosystem in these islands -- restricts access, preventing the arrival of foreign missionaries. "Effectively," declared the local ordinary, Bishop Manuel Antonio Valarezo Luzuriaga to ACN News on Aug. 17, "the local fauna has more rights than the about 14,500 Catholics resident in the Galapagos."


On Nov. 17 ACN News reported the murder that took place Oct. 27 in Kingston of two Catholic missionaries in Jamaica, Brother Marco Laspuna and Suresh Barwa, members of the order of the Missionaries of the Poor. Although mystery still surrounds these murders, they certainly originated in the hostile atmosphere against Christians reported in a number of areas in the country.


The proliferation of new religious movements is extremely high in Guatemala, probably the highest in Central America. "The social and political events of the past 40 years have profoundly changed the situation in this country," said Santiago Otero, secretary-general for the episcopal conference, in an interview given to the magazine Mondo e Missione.

The population has almost quadrupled, rising from 3 million to 11 million inhabitants and this has caused organizational problems for the traditional churches. The recent war that generated fear and frustration and considerably destabilized psychological and family equilibriums, also weighs heavily on the population.

While the traditional churches continue to lose followers, new religious sects and movements seem to have discovered the correct preaching strategy for attracting new ones. One of the most widespread movements is the Mormon church with more than 200,000 believers. It increases every year, especially among the poorest social classes, but it is also starting to attract followers from the middle classes.


Relations among the various religious groups in Honduras, among them a growing number of evangelical groups, contribute to safeguarding freedom of worship. The Catholic Church has appointed the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, as the representative for the ecumenical dialogue that continues with good results.

In January the search was resumed for the American Jesuit priest James Charles Carney, who disappeared over 20 years ago and whose name is part of a list of 180 people reportedly killed by the army between 1979 and 1990.


According to the archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Mexico requires real freedom of worship that depends, however, on constitutional reform that should be undertaken by a parliamentary initiative.

Father Luis Velasquez Romero was murdered on Oct. 25 in the city of Tijuana. Although the police stated that this was a murder set up by organized crime, Bishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of Tijuana ruled out all implications of this kind due to Father ...

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