VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are fundamental human rights as they are the source of all other liberties, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this today upon recieving in audience Ali Akbar Naseri, the new ambassador from Iran to the Holy See.
The Holy Father began by extending his good wishes for the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and for the entire nation.
"Iran is a great nation that has eminent spiritual traditions and its people have a profound religious sensibility," the Pontiff said, noting that this is a "reason for hope for a growing openness and confident collaboration with the international community."
Benedict XVI affirmed that the Holy See will work with those "who serve the cause of peace and promote the dignity with which the Creator has endowed all human beings."
"Today we must all expect and support a new phase of international cooperation," he added, "more solidly based on humanitarian principles and on effective aid to those who suffer, than on cold calculations of exchanges and technical and economic benefits."
"Faith in the one God must bring all believers closer and encourage them to work together for the defense and promotion of fundamental human values," the Pope continued. "Among the universal rights, religious liberty and freedom of conscience occupy an essential place, because they are the source of the other liberties.
"The defense of other rights that stem from the dignity of persons and populations, in particular the promotion of the protection of life, justice and solidarity, must also be the object of a true collaboration."
The Holy Father underlined the "urgent need" to establish harmonious relations between believers of different religions. This, he said, will serve to "build a more human world, more conformed to the plan of God on creation."
To this end, the Pontiff praised the meetings held jointed by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Organization for Islamic Culture and Relations: "Contributing to seeking together what is just and correct, those meetings allow all to progress in reciprocal knowledge and to cooperate in the reflection of great questions that affect the life of humanity."
Benedict XVI also made mention of the community of Catholics in Iran: "Catholics have been present in Iran since the first centuries of Christianity and have always been an integral part of the life and culture of the nation.
"This community is truly Iranian and its age-old experience of coexistence with Muslim believers is of great usefulness to promote greater understanding and cooperation."
The Pope expressed hope that Iran will "reinforce and guarantee to Christians the liberty to profess their faith and to ensure for the Catholic community the essential conditions for its existence, especially the possibility of having sufficient religious personnel and the facilities of movement in the country to ensure the religious service of the faithful."