Here are some highlights from the pope’s address on religious freedom in Philadelphia:
Those ringing words (of the Declaration of Independence) continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.
But history also shows that these or any truths must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended. The history of this nation is also the tale of a constant effort, lasting to our own day, to embody those lofty principles in social and political life. We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans. This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed….
All of us benefit from remembering our past. A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future….
I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom. It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own….
We need but look at history, [it serves us well to look at history,] especially the history of the last century, to see the atrocities perpetrated by systems which claimed to build one or another “earthly paradise” by dominating peoples, subjecting them to apparently indisputable principles and denying them any kind of rights. Our rich religious traditions seek to offer meaning and direction, “they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and heart” (Evangelii Gaudium, 256). They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights….
In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others….
All too often, [and everywhere], those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you, [men and women religious], have faithfully made their cry heard. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind North American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever [any] injustice prevails….
Just a while ago, I spoke of the tendency toward globalization. Globalization isn’t bad. On the contrary, the tendency toward globalizing ourselves is good. It unites us. What can be bad is the way of doing this. If a type of globalization aims to reduce everyone to uniformity like a sphere, this globalization destroys the richness and the uniqueness of each person and each people. If a type of globalization seeks to unite everyone but respecting each person, respecting him as a person, his richness, his uniqueness, respecting each people, its richness, each person, then this globalization is good and it enables all of us to grow, and it brings peace….