Covid-19: Vatican urges OSCE to promote religious freedom amid rising intolerance

Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk took part this week in an OSCE conference aimed at raising awareness about intolerance and discrimination.

The Holy See’s Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe focused his remarks at the 25-26 May event on the impact that intolerance has on Christians.

The OSCE is an intergovernmental organization whose members include most countries of the Northern Hemisphere and is concerned with conflict prevention and crisis management.

Hate crimes against Christians and members of other religions negatively impact the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include threats, violent attacks, murders and profanation of churches and places of worship, cemeteries and other religious properties.

The Vatican representative expressed “great concern” about a divide between religious belief and religious practice. “The false idea that religions could have a negative impact or represent a threat to the well-being of our societies is growing,” he warned. Believers are frequently told that prayer and religious convictions are a private matter that have no place in the public sphere.

The internet and social media, said Msgr. Urbańczyk, often become a place to put others down or incite hatred of cultural, national, and religious groups. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the trend, since people are spending more time online during lockdowns. Msgr. Urbańczyk also urged OSCE member states to promote the inherent dignity of every person and the fundamental unity of the human race.

International Safeguarding Conference announces new webinar series

In a new series of webinars beginning on 29 May, the International Safeguarding Conference (ISC) will be encouraging “the Catholic Church and other faith-based organisations” to “continue with safeguarding programmes, despite the expected Covid-19 recession”.

ICS annually brings together Church representatives, professionals and scientific specialists to share knowledge and good practices on the subject of child protection.

In a press statement released on 26 May, ISC writes that the upcoming webinar is “the first in a series of webinars” entitled “A Safer Church”, which aim to enable safeguarding professionals to share good practice in safeguarding, both in the current pandemic circumstances “and in ‘normal’ times”.

In each webinar, ISC will partner with various safeguarding experts for a live discussion and a question and answer session.

The statement continues, saying that due to the “severe economic hardship” brought by the coronavirus, there has been concern regarding “potential cuts to safeguarding programmes”.

Among those raising concern is Fr Hans Zollner, a member of the ISC Steering Committee, who says “Covid-19 presents challenges across the board for all organisations, including the Church. Church leaders have invested many resources in safeguarding programmes. As organisations are under pressure, the temptation may rise to make cuts across the board. But we cannot afford to treat our investment in child safety as though it was any other social or educational activity.”

Pope at Audience: Prayer cultivates flowers of rebirth

Pope Francis began his General Audience on Wednesday telling the faithful that “God’s plan regarding humanity is for the good”, even though “we experience the presence of evil” in our everyday lives.

The Pope recounted two stories from the book of Genesis that describe the emergence and expansion of evil and sin across successive generations.

The first, in the first chapters of Genesis, is the story of Adam and Eve. In doubting God’s intentions “their hearts yield to the temptation of the evil one”, said the Pope. However, “the experience goes in the opposite direction”: “their eyes are opened and they discover that they are naked”.

The second, from Genesis chapter 4, is the story of Cain and Abel. “Cain is envious of his brother” and sees him as a rival, said the Pope. “Evil enters within his heart and Cain does not succeed in controlling it”, leading to his murder.

Pope Francis went on to explain that though Cain’s descendants develop “arts and crafts”, “violence develops as well”. We too still experience the presence of wickedness in the world, said the Pope.

Pope Francis then went on to recount a third account in the Bible. He described it as one that is “less apparent, humbler and devout, that represents the redemption of hope”. It is a story involving Abel, Seth, Enoch and Noah, who acted humbly and prayed to God with sincerity.

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