The Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 44th World Day of Peace, which will be celebrated on 1st January 2011 is based on the theme ‘Religious Freedom, The Path to Peace’. This theme is extremely central, especially because it profoundly affects the other dimensions of human life in contemporary society. The voice of the Church with regards to the right to religious freedom – and other related individual freedoms – is clearly outlined in the Pope’s Message, while reference is made to other Church documents which pronounce themselves on these issues.

In his Message, the Holy Father affirms that “religious freedom expresses what is unique about the human person, for it allows us to direct our personal and social life to God, in whose light the identity, meaning and purpose of the person are fully understood”. In his reflections upon the theme of religious freedom, Pope Benedict XVI dwells upon other important dimesions, such as human dignity, the illusion of moral relativism, the family, the special status of religious freedom, and the dialogue between civil and religious institutions.

The Holy Father stresses that “the family founded on marriage, as the expression of the close union and complementarity between a man and a woman, finds its place … as the fisrt school for social, cultural, moral and spiritual formation and growth of children, who should always be able to see in their father and mother the first witnesses of a life directed to the pursuit of truth and the love of God”, and the transmission of authentic religious values.

Pope Benedict acknowledges the role of religions with regards to world peace. In fact, he asks: “How can anyone deny the contributon of the world’s great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity”. The Holy Father also offers to humanity his precious insights on the public dimension of religion, a topic which often comes up during discussions on the local media.  He reminds us about “religion’s ethical contribution in the political sphere. Religion should not be marginalized or prohibited, but seen as making an effective contribution to the promotion of the common good”.