Vatican: European Christians face abuse

2013-05-28 17:54

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Vatican City - Christians in Europe are being arrested and prosecuted for expressing their beliefs, the Vatican alleged on Tuesday, labelling such moves as a form of discrimination and "a serious threat to the whole of society”.

The accusation came in remarks that made last week at a conference in Tirana by a top Holy See envoy that the Vatican published on Tuesday.

"Christians are frequently reminded in public discourse and increasingly in courtrooms as well that they can believe whatever they like, in their own homes or heads and largely worship as they wish in their own private churches, but they simply cannot act on those beliefs in public," charged Monsignor Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The clergyman cited cases of "religious leaders" being "threatened with police action" or "sentenced to prison" for "preaching about sinful behaviour... and on the biblical teaching against sexual immorality”.

"Even private conversations between citizens, including expression of opinions on social networks, can become the grounds of a criminal complaint or at least intolerance, in many European countries," he charged.

Toso did not mention specific cases, arrests or prison sentences, but he did mention the European Court of Human Rights, which in January issued rulings on cases brought by British Christians.

Religious beliefs

The Strasbourg-based court dismissed appeals by a marriage registrar and by a relationship councillor, who were dismissed by their employers because their religious beliefs clashed with non-discrimination rules regarding same-sex couples.

Toso's remarks were made two months after the election of Pope Francis, who has been known for his humility, his calls for interfaith dialogue and his conservative stance on issues like abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women.

Toso said that "after centuries of struggling for freedom of conscience", Christians "are now being forced to choose between two impossible scenarios: They can abandon their faith and act against their conscience, or resist and face losing their livelihood”.

"Discrimination against Christians - even where they are a majority - must be faced as a serious threat to the whole of society and, therefore, should be fought, as it is done, and rightly so, in the case of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," he said.

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  pope francis  |  vatican city  |  religion

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