The Great Debate UK
(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI blesses a nativity scene at the Vatican December 15, 2010/Tony Gentile)
Pope Benedict voiced the Catholic Church's deep concern over "hostility and prejudice" against Christianity in Europe on Thursday, saying creeping secularism was just as bad as religious fanaticism. In the message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, marked on Jan. 1, he also reiterated recent condemnations of lack of religious freedom in countries in the Middle East where Christians are a minority, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
He said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world and that it was "unacceptable" that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith. But he reserved his strongest words for Europe, where the Church says it is under assault by some national governments and European institutions over issues such as gay marriage, abortion and the use of Christian religious symbols in public places.
"I also express my hope that in the West, and especially in Europe, there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians because they are resolved to orient their lives in a way consistent with the values and principles expressed in the Gospel," he said in the message. "May Europe rather be reconciled to its own Christian roots, which are fundamental for understanding its past, present and future role in history."
The Pope put what the Vatican has termed "aggressive secularism", such as gay marriage and restrictions on religious symbols such as crucifixes, nativity scenes and other traditions, on the same level as religious fanaticism: "It should be clear that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in that both represent extreme forms of a rejection of legitimate pluralism and the principle of secularity."
Pope Benedict's surprising view that condoms can sometimes be used to fight AIDS has kindled a lively debate among Roman Catholic theologians and commentators about whether this amounts to a change in Church thinking.
His comments and a Vatican clarification that expanded on them seem to leave no doubt that Benedict has spoken with unprecedented frankness for a pontiff and shifted the focus a bit from the Church's rejection of condoms to avoid disease.
(Photo: Pope Benedict at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, November 6, 2010/Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Benedict, on a lightning trip to Spain, urged Europe on Saturday to re-discover God and its Christian heritage and also denounced the country's liberal abortion laws.
"Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear," he said in the sermon of a Mass for more than 20,000 people in the square of Santiago de Compostela, which has been a major pilgrimage destination since medieval times.
In vitro fertilization (IVF), the pioneering technique that won Robert Edwards the 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine, opened up a wealth of scientific options and a Pandora's box of ethical dilemmas.
Edwards's success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led not only to "test tube babies" but also to innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood.
– Madeleine Teahan is a speaker for the Catholic Voices project. The opinions expressed are her own -
The Holy See is a sovereign entity which has enjoyed diplomatic relations worldwide for at least 1,000 years and as head of this state, the Pope has been invited by the Queen to visit Britain and address civil society.
When countries are threatened or institutions are in trouble, they look to their leaders to show the way out of the crisis.
The Vatican is in trouble, its moral authority sapped by mounting allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in the past and cover ups by bishops supervising them.
The more the scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys in Germany spreads, the more the focus turns to Rome to see how Pope Benedict reacts. The story is getting ever closer to the German-born pope, even though he has been quite outspoken denouncing these scandals and had just met all Irish bishops to discuss the scandals shaking their country. Nobody's saying he had any role in the abuse cases now coming to light in Germany. But the fact that some took place in Regensburg while he was a prominent theologian there, that his brother Georg has admitted to smacking lazy members of his choir there and that Benedict was archbishop in Munich from 1977 to 1982 lead to the classic cover-up question: what did he know and when did he know it?
Pope Benedict on Tuesday linked the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining the differences between the sexes were threats to creation.
Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes," he said at his annual meeting at the Vatican with ambassadors to the Holy See.
More than 43,000 Malaysians have protested online over a court ruling allowing a Malay-language Catholic paper to use the word "Allah" for "God," signaling growing Islamic anger in this mostly Muslim Southeast Asian country.
Senegal has a reputation for harmony between its Muslim majority (about 90%) and Christian minority (about 6%). President Abdoulaye Wade ranks as a Muslim champion of dialogue with Christians and even with Jews. So it came as a surprise over the holiday period that the 83-year-old leader provoked separate protests by imams and Catholics, including the country's cardinal. Even stranger, the dispute was sparked by a huge Stalinist-style statue that North Korean workers are constructing on a hill overlooking the capital Dakar.