The “conviction that truth has its own power of attraction,” said Pope Francis, negates the need for those secure in their faith to impose their beliefs on others.
These were some of the remarks delivered during his meeting with the religious leaders of Albania as part of his Sept. 21 Apostolic Journey to the country.
Stressing the importance of promoting religious freedom, Pope Francis emphasized the need to foster an attitude which regards “every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters.”
“Deep down, we are all pilgrims on this earth, and on this pilgrim journey, as we yearn for truth and eternity, we do not live autonomous and self-sufficient individual lives...We need each other, and are entrusted to each other’s care.”
The Holy Father also spoke of the importance of promoting an attitude geared toward the common good.
“Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom.”
“The more men and women are at the service of others,” he said, “the greater their freedom!” Reflecting on societies which seek to bring aid to those poor and in need, Pope Francis exclaimed: “How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope!”
He noted how men and women, inspired by “the values of their respective religious traditions,” can offer their contributions. “This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue,” he said.
Pope Francis said that Saturday's gathering of religious leaders, which took place in Our Lady of Good Council Catholic university, “is a sign of the dialogue which you experience daily, seeking to build among yourselves bonds of fraternity and cooperation for the good of the whole of society.”
“The violence and tragedy” which marks Albania's past, he said, is such as can be caused by “a forced exclusion of God from personal and communal life.”
“When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society,” the Holy Father continued, “it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated.”
Pope Francis acknowledged the suffering which religious communities in Albania faced when they were denied freedom of conscience and religion, “and how from such a wound comes a humanity that is impoverished because it lacks hope and ideals to guide it.”
Since the 1990s, a series of changes have been implemented in Albania which allow for the exercise of religious freedom. This freedom, the Pope said, has opened the possibility for each person, “according to their own religious convictions,” to contributed both to the moral and to the economic reconstruction of their country.
Citing Saint John Paul II's words during his 1993 visit to Albania, Pope Francis noted that religious freedom is “a gift” which guarantees “every other expression of freedom,” safeguards “against all forms of totalitarianism, and contributes decisively to human fraternity." (Message to the Albanian People, 25 April 1993).
Religious intolerance, the Holy Father continued, “is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world.”
The living out of religious and ethical codes should always express “the mystery we intend to honor”; thus, “all those forms which present a distorted use of religion, must be firmly refuted as false since they are unworthy of God or humanity.”
“Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence!”
“To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”
Pope Francis added that religious freedom cannot only be secured through legislation, but through “an atmosphere of respect and cooperation that must be built with everyone’s participation, even those who have no religious convictions.”
In off-the-cuff remarks toward the end of his address, the Pope stressed the need for dialogue that is rooted in truth. Dialogue that is not rooted in truth, he said, “would be a ghost dialogue, a dialogue of air.”
He added that we each have “our own personal identity”. Walking together while pretending to have another identity, however, is relativism. “Everyone of us offers witness of ones own identity to the other”; in this way, “dialogue can move forward on theological questions.” But, what is most important is walking together without betraying hope.”
Pope Francis concluded his address by encouraging the good relations among religious communities in Albania. “Continue to be a sign for your country, and beyond, that good relations and fruitful cooperation are truly possible among men and women of different religions,” he said. “And pray also for me. May God bless you all.”