Pope Benedict XVI lamented over the serious threat to religious freedom for the faithful in many countries around the world.
At his Sunday blessing on Dec. 4, the Pope said to the thousands of pilgrims at St. Peter's Square that religious liberty is far from being effectively guaranteed everywhere," according the Associated Press (AP).
"In some cases, it is denied for religious or ideological reasons; at other times, although recognized on paper, is it obstructed in reality by political power or, in a more deceitful way, by the cultural domination of agnosticism and relativism," the Pope further elaborated on the three possible scenarios.
The pontiff emphasized the Vaticans support to religious freedom, quoting the Declaration on Religious Freedom ("Dignitatis Humanae") published by the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago, AP reported. "Dignitatis Humanae" was official proclaimed by the Pope Paul VI on Dec. 7, 1965.
"The Council insists widely on religious freedom, which must be guaranteed both to individuals and also to communities," Benedict said. "After 40 years, this teaching of the council remains of great relevance today."
Quoted by the Catholic News Service, the Pope concluded, "Let us pray that every person can fully realize the religious vocation that he carries inscribed in his being."
Over the last few months, the Pope has commented on the religious freedom crisis in some countries such as Iraq and Eritrea.
In late August, Benedict met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Rome, discussing Iraq's new draft constitution. As the legal system in Iraq is strongly based on Islamic law, the rights of minority Christians might not be guaranteed. Therefore, Benedict urged the Iraqi government to ensure religious freedom in Iraq.
In addition, according to the Catholic Information Service for Africa, the Pope has highlighted the lack of religious freedom in Eritrea when meeting the new Eritrean envoy to the Holy See Petros Tseggai Asghedom in November.
"The Catholic Church is deeply concerned that all citizens should be free to practice their faith and that no one should feel under threat or coercion of any kind in this regard," the Pope was quoted as saying.
The Pope also demanded the Eritrean government to exempt missionaries from compulsory military service so that they can concentrate on their Christian callings.