Sunday, 29 April 2012

Love and Death

Occasionally I spend time with people who are coming to the end of their lives, and try to communicate to their relatives the irreplaceable nature of that time, not just for the person who is dying, but for them as well. I don't think I do it very well.
Love and Death.

The Nuncio and the Pastoral Office of the Bishop

Fr Tim drew attention to the address given by the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini to the Bishops of England and Wales during their recent meeting. The full text of the Nuncio's address can be accessed from this page at the Bishops Conference website. The address has a particular resonance in a Diocese like mine where the appointment of a new bishop is awaited.

Looking at the full text of Archbishop Mennini's address has prompted for me a couple of reflections for "Good Shepherd" Sunday, a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The first is the element of courtesy that is to be found in the text. This is explicitly apparent in the opening paragraph, but it is also implicit in the familiarity shown later in the text with the business being considered by the Bishops during their meeting. It can also be seen in his reference to "Mary's Dowry" at the conclusion of his address.

The second thought has been prompted by this paragraph, towards the end of the text:
In this regard I hope that you will allow me to remind you of how important it is to continue to grow in an effective and affective communion among yourselves, given the fact that this communion reveals itself as the first way, the first form of Mission. We all know very well that to talk is absolutely indispensable – but just talking is not of itself sufficient… and then we can also reflect on the Lord’s command Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other. This is how all will know you for my disciples: by your love for one another.”(Jn. 13:34-35). I believe that a stronger communion between you, between us, as brother bishops, would have very positive effects on your faithful and particularly upon your priests. One could quote the latin proverb: “exempla trahunt!”
This seems a particularly apt summary of the office of a Bishop - to be an instrument of "effective and affective" communion with his brother bishops and with the priests and lay faithful of his diocese. The Collect for the liturgy of the fourth Sunday of Easter contains a nuance in the Latin that even the 2011 Missal translation into English has not captured, and which it is useful to read in the light of Archbishop Mennini's text:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, deduc nos ad societatam caelestium gaudiorum ...
[Almighty eternal God, lead us into the society/fellowship/union of the joy of heaven...]
On another but not totally unrelated tack, the Nuncio's address represents an interesting exercise of the universal pastoral office of the Successor St Peter. In the opening paragraph of this address, Archbishop Mennini refers to his office as "representative of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI".  He then goes on, using the words of Pope Benedict himself, to affirm the (local) Bishops in their stance with regard to teaching the faith in a highly secularised environment and, in particular, with regard to the question of the legalisation of gay marriage. The Nuncio, as a representative of the Holy Father to the local Church, manifests that universal pastoral office on behalf of the Pope.

The paragraph in which Archbishop Mennini proposed a "clear and outspoken" expression of the teaching of the Church is as follows. Whilst the paragraph clearly has a reference to the Bishops to whom he was speaking, the reference to "testimony in public life" and the example of Her Majesty the Queen also suggests an application for all Catholics:
We all know how difficult it is to live in an increasingly secularised society but, that is why we need to express the teaching of the Church in a clear and outspoken way. This testimony in public life will affect the future of the young and will, God willing, also touch the hearts of all persons of goodwill who are seeking meaning in their lives and, often without realising it, are in fact, searching for God. In this regard, I cannot fail to express my admiration, as well as my congratulations, to Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, who has served as Monarch for sixty years and clearly manifests in all that she does, especially her Christmas Messages, the Christian Faith which inspires her.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Vigils at abortion facilities

Recent media coverage of the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in Bedford Square gave the impression that prayer vigils at abortion facilities were a recent development in Britain. 40 Days for Life's vigils have attracted more attention than others, perhaps in part because of the location of one of the facilities involved - central London, in an area with many buildings associated with the University of London.

Such prayer vigils do take place at other facilities around the country. Fr Tim has posted an account of his participation in one such vigil, and it makes for informative reading: Drenched, spat-on and sworn at (American Style?). I am not quite so sensitive to the "surveillance state" as Fr Tim, but did observe driving in to work one morning this week the Constabulary setting up a road block! It was perhaps not un-related to my working in what is an Olympics host borough and to the fact that the road is one of the routes between training venues in the borough and the main Olympic site at Stratford. 

Fr Tim notes something of imprtance towards the end of his post:
I have played up the incidents today because I think that it is important to get the message across that this is a peaceful vigil and the opponents of it are the ones disposed to violence and intimidation. In fact the participants in the vigil are able to focus on their prayers.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The hospital as a place of evangelisation

“Hospital as a place of evangelization, a human and spiritual mission”: will be the theme of the 27th InternationalConference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers that will be held in the Vatican this year from 15 to17 November.

See here for the Vatican Information Service report.

It will be interesting to see how the conference addresses the situation of hospitals in countries like the United Kingdom, where state run hospitals are the norm. It is possible to see an evangelising role for Catholics engaged with such hospitals, be it as staff or patients, but it is a role undertaken in a rather different way (presence in charity) than might be the case in a Catholic hospital.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I want to see this!

In 2007-2008, the British Museum hosted an exhibition of The Terracotta Army. This included a number of original figures from the archaelogical site itself. The exhibition was stunning, not just because of the rarity of the opportunity to see these figures in London, but because of the way they were displayed. Having weaved your way through the first part of the exhibition, the highlight was the display of the full size figures themselves, which "appeared" as you rounded the corner. They were displayed in the centre of the room and you were able to walk round them (at a short distance, and on the other side of an alarmed cord!) and view them from all sides. The figures would have probably gripped the visitor anyway; but the manner of their display meant that they fascinated and held the visitor completely. I can still visualise it now, some four years later.

Her Majesty the Queen has today opened the newly restored Cutty Sark at Greenwich. It, too, looks as if it is now being displayed in a quite stunning way.  A set of images can be seen here, the first image giving a real sense of the ship floating on a glass roof that gives the impression of being water. The video report here also helps give an idea of how it looks. The website of the Royal Maritime Museum has a page with visitor information for the Cutty Sark.

It will be hard to resist going to see it this weekend, even if I can only see it from the outside.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

It does not seem like seven years .....

... since Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the See of St Peter.

The homily that Pope Benedict preached at a Mass celebrating together his 85th birthday and the start of the 8th year of his pontificate represents personal testimony to three key"signs" that have given a guide to his life of faith: the witness of the saints Bernadette of Lourdes and Benedict Joseph Labre, and the Paschal mystery. In the year of his birth, and according to the then-current calendar of the Church, the feast days of these saints and Holy Saturday coincided. The Italian text of the full homily is here, with a summary in English here. I trust that a full English translation will be available in due course, because it is worth reading the full homily. Referring to a particularity of the former liturgy, Pope Benedict observed:
The day I was baptised ... was Easter Saturday. At the time it was still customary to hold the Easter vigil in the morning, followed by the darkness of Easter Saturday without a Hallelujah. This singular paradox, this anticipation of light in a day of darkness, can almost be seen as an image of the history of our own times. On the one hand there is the silence of God and His absence, yet the resurrection of Christ contains an anticipation of God's 'yes'. We live in this anticipation, through the silence of God we hear His words, and through the darkness of His absence we glimpse His light. The anticipation of the resurrection in the midst of evolving history indicates the path we must follow and helps us to continue the journey.
He began the concluding paragraph of his homily with the words (my own adaptation of the English translation based on the Italian original):
I find myself before the final stage of my life journey and I do not know what awaits me ...
This prompted in my mind two thoughts. I do from time to time meet people who, either through age or because of illness, are coming to the end of their lives and recognise that this is the case. Spending time with such people is very moving, particularly when one can see that they have come to terms with their situation and are able to live it in a positive way rather than just suffer it. I usually come away from such a visit wondering just how I will react when I reach that time in my life - not that I am expecting to soon. And not that I am expecting Pope Benedict to die soon, though he is now less strong than in the past.

The other thing it reminded me of was a story of the day of Pope Benedict's election as Pope. So the story goes, and I do not know how true it is having just heard it from somenone else, Joseph Ratzinger was trying to contact Georg Ratzinger by telephone just after his election. No answer. And this continued for most of the day. Joseph Ratzinger became very worried, and put out an urgent call to find Georg Ratzinger, who he thought must be ill. It transpired instead that Georg Ratzinger had heard the news of Joseph Ratzinger's election to the See of St Peter, and was extremely annoyed. The plan had been that the two brothers would retire together, and the white smoke emerging from the Sistine Chapel had just put paid to that plan. Georg Ratzinger was so annoyed he was refusing to pick up the telephone to take Joseph Ratzinger's call.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

SSPX: Yes, No or Maybe?

The response of the Superior of the Society of St Pius X to the "doctrinal preamble" has been received at the Holy See. The guarded official comment of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei reads as follows:
"The text of the response of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, as had been requested at the meeting of 16 March 2012, was received by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on 17 April 2012. The text will be examined by the Dicastery and then submitted to the judgement of the Holy Father.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, said that, with the latest response, “steps forward have been taken, that is to say, that the response, the new response, is rather encouraging. But there are still developments that will be made, and examined, and decisions which should be taken in the next few weeks.”
The gossip says:
The superior of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) has signed a doctrinal preamble set out by the Vatican as a basis for further reconciliation talks, a top Vatican commentator said yesterday.

Andrea Tornielli, journalist for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, said Bishop Bernard Fellay had signed the document “with some slight modifications”.
The Society of St Pius X have issued a very cautious communique in response to the press coverage: Communiqué de la Maison généralice de la Fraternité Saint-Pie X (18 avril 2012, citing the statement of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, and denying that Bishop Fellay has given a "positive response" to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying that he has replied to the request made of him by Cardinal Levada for clarifications with regard to the doctrinal preamble.

More detailed coverage can be found at La Croix: Les lefebvristes acceptent la main tendue du pape.

I have previously commented on the "doctrinal preamble" here and here; and my views on it can be summarised by these three points:

1. Since we all have a stake in the content of the Doctrinal Preamble, should it not at some point become the subject of public discussion in the Church rather than just of private discussion between a dicastery of the Holy See and the SSPX?

2. If the rule of faith considered appropriate for those joining the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and so "achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See", is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, why should this same catechism not provide the rule of faith to which the SSPX are expected to adhere?

3. The speculation is that, should the SSPX accept the Doctrinal Preamble, their canonical status in the Church might become that of a Personal Prelature. This might be diplomatically convenient, but I am not sure that it represents the status best reflecting the nature of a priestly society.

I find it difficult to believe (though would be happy to be proven wrong) that any modifications made to the "doctrinal preamble" (previous discussions seemed to accept the possibility of "clarifications", but not modification) by Bishop Fellay are just slight as Andrea Tornielli suggests, or that they are without some doctrinal or pastoral significance. The report at La Croix quotes the Holy See's spokesman, Fr Lombardo, as saying that :
"la réponse contient des demandes ou propositions de précisions sur le texte du Préambule doctrinal proposé à la signature" [the response contains requests or suggestions for clarifications of the text of the doctrinal preamble put forward for signature].
I therefore trust that the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei will be suitably critical in its examination of any such modifications/clarifications, and thereby respectful of the needs and interests of those who have faithfully adhered to the teaching and life of the Church as expressed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and in the pontificates since that Council.

Good news or bad news? Let's wait and see.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pluscarden Photographs

Pluscarden Abbey looked like this last week.

The first three photographs were taken from part way up the hill that stands behind the monastery. The Church is at the centre of the first two photographs, partly hidden by trees. The Abbey's website contains more photographs and details about the Church building. My photographs were taken from the right of the orientation of the photograph on the Abbey website home page.

This photograph was taken on the track that runs along the top of the hill. This is Forestry Commission land, so the timber is grown comercially.

And is this Sunday lunch for the brethren? Pheasant were in plentiful evidence in the Abbey grounds and surrounding fields and hill side.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

No sooner ....

... do I return to the aether than I disappear again.

I have gone here for four days.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Wearing a Cross

Cardinal Keith O'Brien's homily for Easter Sunday attracted considerable media attention. An example of that attention is the BBC News coverage: Cardinal Keith O'Brien urges Christians to 'proudly' wear cross. The Scottish Media Office news release, which includes the full text of the homily, can be found here: Cardinal's Easter Homily.

There is a political and cultural background to Cardinal O'Brien's remarks, and these are indicated in the BBC report and in the remarks of Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall, to which Cardinal O'Brien made reference. It is very easy to see Cardinal O'Brien's remarks exclusively in this kind of context, and to then interpret them as being a call for Christians and, among them, Catholics to be assertive in visibly wearing the Cross in the face of a secularising world around them. Undoubtedly the wearing in public of a sign of Christian belief does have this dimension to it, but I would want to suggest that it is a dimension, and not of the essence of wearing a sign of Christian belief.

Within Cardinal O'Brien's homily, it is interesting that he quotes Pope Benedict's observation that:
 “Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance”.
While the second sentence of this quotation draws attention to the political/cultural context, it is the first sentence on which I would like to focus in reflecting on the significance of wearing a sign of Christian belief in the world. "Religion is not a problem ... to solve". The wearing of the Cross, or of another sign of Christian belief, should not represent a problem to others and, for the vast majority of our fellow citizens, this is precisely the case: someone wearing a sign of Christian belief does not represent a problem for them. Cardinal O'Brien's reference to those who already wear a Cross " not in any ostentatious way, not in a way that might harm you at your work or recreation" recognises the need to wear a sign of Christian belief in a way that does not create a problem where there is not really a problem. Immediately following this Cardinal O'Brien observed that such people wear a Cross as:
..a simple indication that you value the role of Jesus Christ in the history of the world, that you are trying to live by Christ’s standards in your own daily life and that you are only too willing to reach out a hand of help to others, as did Jesus Christ when he was on earth.
This seems to me to capture what is of the essence of the idea of wearing in public a sign of Christian belief, as Cardinal O'Brien suggests it, a Cross. One can decide to wear a Cross in response to Cardinal O'Brien's words, in a kind of obedience. But the decision to wear a Cross in a way that really expresses the meaning contained in that act belongs to the individual member of the lay faithful. That decision can take encouragement or inspiration from Cardinal O'Brien's words, and rightly so; but it will be an effective sign of witness only if others can see in it that the person wearing the Cross is expressing the three-fold meaning described by Cardinal O'Brien.

It is interesting that the three-fold meaning of the wearing of a Cross as described by Cardinal O'Brien is also a good descriptor of the particular mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world - the evangelisation of culture, achieving holiness through the work of our daily lives and charity towards others. In line with this, my view is that the decision to wear a Cross or other sign of Christian belief, particularly in a place of work, lies firmly within the competence of the lay faithful and not within the competence of the ordained or religious states (who have their own forms of public witness). The full text of Cardinal O'Brien's homily seems to respect this; the media coverage - "Britain's most senior Roman Catholic Church cleric has called for Christians to wear a cross every day" - misses that subtlety.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Two Papal Homilies on Maundy Thursday

Too good not to link to.

And perhaps not unrelated: Holy Saturday and Adrienne von Speyr.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, I joined my sister and her family in Trafalgar Square for the Passion of Jesus. The square was full for the 12 noon performance, and I assume a similar attendance for the 3.15 pm performance. The play is introduced as an expression of the faith of those who produce and take part in it, and Archbishop Nichols concluded the performance by thanking them for bringing the play to Trafalgar Square. He also gave a second "thank you" to the Lord for the saving work represented in the play, before leading those gathered in the square in the Lord's Prayer. The Anglican Bishop of London was due to lead the blessing at the end of the 3.15 pm performance. It is all very moving, and a superb example of the new evangelisation in action.

I then walked up to Soho Square to take part in the Liturgy at 3 pm. Fr Sherbrooke explained when I spoke to him on the steps at the end of the liturgy that, once the restored Church had opened, he felt that it deserved beautiful music though, in his words, they "buy it in". (There was a retiring collection to help cover costs of music and flowers). The beauty of the surroundings combined with the starkness of a Church stripped of decoration made the professionally sung Passion quite stunning. Those singing clearly had a good sense, not just of the music, but of its Liturgical context and meaning, and this was discernable. The concluding words " .... and they laid him there" just seemed to drift into the following silence as an expression of the emptiness of the occasion. As someone said to me recently in a completely different context: Wow!

Sarajevo: anniversary of the war

The events to mark the anniversary of the war in the Balkans, a major feature of which was the siege of Sarajevo, have a particular resonance for me. The BBC coverage is here (do watch the video clip at the top of this report) and here.

There are some very striking implications of the avenue of empty chairs adopted as the symbol of remembrance. It seems to me represent the remembrance of the people of a city, rather than of a particular nation or ethnic community. It at once represents the remembrance of the people and of each and every individual person - represented by those who stand by and cry and by those who place a flower to represent their grief for those they know who died during the siege. As the speaker in the BBC video says, everyone has their chair. It is a great tribute, I think, to the people of the city of Sarajevo that they can put together such a rich and telling symbol of their remembrance and one that so much represents the sense of the ordinary people of the city rather than of politicians.

There is also a sadness that it does not appear possible to to note that remembrance in a way that is religious.

The personal resonance comes from the family whose story is told in these two programmes from BBC Radio 4's Home Truths: Escape from Sarajevo and Escape from Sarajevo Pt 2. The BBC site does not appear to have the full programmes available to listen again. I got to know the family when Maya was in my tutor group, and when I was teaching her A-level Physics. I saw something of the difficulty of the children's relations with their parents that is related in the programmes.

The BBC reporter remembers:
There is a moment that returns to me again and again. An old man emerges from a wood and makes his way towards where I am standing. The lovely green valley has tipped into autumnal browns and it is a cold, damp morning.

The old man is one of 40,000 people driven from their homes in the central Bosnian town of Jajce, and they have been walking for two days to reach safety....

I asked the man how old he was. He said he was 80. May I ask you, I said, are you a Muslim or a Croat? And the answer he gave me still shames me as it echoes down the decades in my head. I am, he said, a musician.
I have an identical memory, that also has lasted the 15 years or so since, of the time when I eventually asked Maya whether or not she had a religious belief of her own. Her answer was: "I am a Martian".  I have regretted asking the question ever since. I was struck at the time by how the manipulation of peoples sensibilities by the political situation, by the warfare and by the media appeared to have made religious belief impossible for a generation. This family desperately resisted any attempts to take sides in the conflict engulfing their city and, if my memory is correct, it was the two girls who insisted that they take part in the peace rally in April 1992 referred to in the first Home Truths programme.

One thing that teachers are able to do is to give young people chances in life that they might otherwise not have. Maya's story is the one of those that I use as an example of this.

Oddly enough, I also gained an insight into how military technology played a part in the eventual ending of the siege of Sarajevo. At the time, I had an educational link to a company called Siemens-Plessey Systems, whose factory in Ilford began life in the early days of television manufacturing, though during the time of my link it focussed on military electronics. The factory became part of BAE Systems, and has now been demolished to make way for a housing estate. In the early 1990's they worked on developing a passive acoustic artillery location system (ie a sophisticated system of microphones, weather stations and computers) as an urgent operational requirement (ie we needed it yesterday) for deployment with British forces serving around Sarajevo. When the system was deployed, British artillery were then moved to positions on Mt Ickman and returned fire at the Serbian artillery and mortar positions shelling the city.

But rather more important was the quality of the information about firing positions gained by the system. International forces were able to say with absolute certainty, not just where shells landed, but where they had been fired from. And it was the political pressure resulting from this, as much as the military response, that eventually eased the shelling of Sarajevo.

Liturgical blooper kills Pope and Bishop at Mass

I heard this at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, before it was repeated correctly:

Remember also, Lord, your servants Benedict our Pope and Thomas our Bishop, who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace.
 I checked when I got home, just to make sure ....

Small print

By the time this post appears, we might have learnt the answer.

But it would be interesting to know exactly what these paragraphs of the BBC News report refer to. I heard it first, exactly as posted in the website, on Radio 4 Thursday morning, though I then heard the word "too" as the word "two".
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered the CQC checks after concerns were raised about consent forms being pre-signed.

The inspectors visited nearly 300 abortion providers in England over three days in March, and found about 50 were not complying with laws or regulations.

Several doctors were referred to the General Medical Council, and police have been investigating too, to establish whether criminal offences have been committed.
The Channel 4 News report, which suggests that the CQC was itself one of the organisations whose concerns led to the visits to abortion providers, can be found here.

Abortion: re-opening a conversation on the level of culture..

The events surrounding the 40 Days for Life vigil in Bedford Square, London, gained much attention in the general media and on Catholic blogs.

Speaking on Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 on Friday 30th March, in the morning of the time of prayer led by Bishop Hopes and accompanied by a noisy counter-protest, a spokeswoman for 40 Days for Life, Sarah Denorwel, used the phrase "re-opening this conversation on the level of culture" to describe the nature of what the vigil is about. [The programme is available to listen again on the BBC i-player. I think it is going to remain available, but let me know if this link does not work: The package on the 40 Days for Life vigil is at the beginning of the programme.] Fr Stephen Wang has a good account of participation in the vigil at Bedford Square here.

Amidst all the other descriptors that have been applied to the 40 Days for Life vigil in recent weeks, and by some degree of implication to similar vigils that are held at other abortion facilities, this seems to be the one that best captures what they are about.

They certainly are vigils of prayer and, within my own experience which I have no reason to believe is not the common experience, entirely peaceful. In so far as they also represent a public statement that there is another way than abortion, they also represent a witness to others about that alternative. They do therefore, in a constrained and restricted way, share something of the phenomenon of a demonstration. As we have seen in Bedford Square, the vigils have a cultural and political consequence, though one should say that that consequence is not of their essence.

Seen as a "re-opening of this conversation on the level of culture" the religious nature of the vigil is interesting, too. The Catholic Church is perfectly entitled to engage with the culture of the society in which it lives, whether that engagement is undertaken by the lay faithful or by priests and religious.  These vigils, in which all states of life in the Church - lay, priestly, religious - are represented, show in quite a particular way this engagement of the Church on the level of culture. They are interesting from an ecclesial point of view as an exemplification of the relative competencies of different states of life in the mission of the Church, as well as being interesting from a cultural and political point of view.

But the vigils also have what one might term a personal dimension. This refers to the people - those who work for the abortion facility, those who attend for abortion, those who take part in the vigil of prayer, those who act as pavement counsellors. For each, though perhaps in different ways and for different reasons, the vigil offers a degree of challenge. But it is precisely these people, most directly affected by abortion, who are the bearers of its culture. The "conversation on the level of culture" is also a "conversation on the level of the persons involved" and, as Sarah Denorwel suggested during her contribution to Woman's Hour, the prayer vigils can, away from the media attention, provide a space within which such a conversation takes place.

Benedict XVI in Cuba

One of the things that I missed during my absence was Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Mexico and Cuba. With a hat-tip to Auntie Joanna, I have retrospectively been very struck by Pope Benedict's homily during Mass celebrated in Havana. There appears to be a wonderful resonance, for a different generation and in a different part of the world, with the visits of Pope John Paul II to Poland. The political implication of an essentially religious message are quite apparent. As Auntie Joanna suggested, and as was no doubt true of Pope John Paul II's message in Poland, the relevance reaches beyond the borders of Cuba to a country such as the United Kingdom. Here, it is well to read the following words spoken in Cuba alongside those spoken in Westminster Hall in September 2010.
The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), claiming is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.  
....Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each man and woman has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.  
Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.  
Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. The believer is called to offer that truth to his contemporaries, as did the Lord, even before the ominous shadow of rejection and the Cross. The personal encounter with the one who is Truth in person compels us to share this treasure with others, especially by our witness....  
The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society.