VATICAN CITY, 23 SEP 2011
At the apostolic nunciature in Berlin at 9 a.m. today, the Holy Father met with representatives of the Muslim community in Germany. Muslims in Germany number around 4.5million; 70 percent of them are of Turkish of origin while others come from Arab countries, the Balkans and Iran.
In his remarks to the group the Pope recalled how "from the 1970s onwards, the presence of numerous Muslim families has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of this country". In this context he highlighted the importance of constant effort, not only "for peaceful coexistence, but also for the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good in this society.
"Many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life", headed. "At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual's personal choices. The Catholic Church firmly advocates that due recognition be given to the public dimension of religious adherence. In an overwhelmingly pluralist society, this demand is not unimportant. Care must be taken to guarantee that others are always treated with respect. Mutual respect grows only on the basis of agreement on certain inalienable values that are proper to human nature, in particular the inviolable dignity of every single person".
The Holy Father went on: "In Germany - as in many other countries, not only Western ones -this common frame of reference is articulated by the Constitution, whose juridical content is binding on every citizen, whether he belong to a faith community or not. Naturally, discussion over the best formulation of principles like freedom of public worship is vast and open-ended, yet it is significant that the Basic Law expresses them in a way that is still valid today at a distance of over sixty years".
"The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find particularly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify. In seeking this, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs. ... But they knew they had to engage with the followers of other religions and none: common ground was found in the recognition of some inalienable rights that are proper to human nature and precede every positive formulation. In this way, an essentially homogeneous society laid the foundations that we today consider valid for a markedly pluralistic world, foundations that actually point out the evident limits of pluralism: it is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values".
At the end of his address, Benedict XVI underlined the importance of fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims as part of the process of building "a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society", such as"the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice".
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