29-April-2009 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Religion at School No Breach of Freedom, Says Pope

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Learning religion at school is far from an interference in one's freedom, and is rather an example of mutual respect, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this Saturday when he received in audience Italian religion teachers, accompanied by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian episcopal conference.

The teachers were gathered in a two-day encounter dedicated to a theme taken from Romans 1:16: "I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel: [Working Toward] a Culture at the Service of Man."

"Far from being an interference in or a limitation to liberty, your presence is a valuable example of that positive spirit of secularity that permits the promotion of a constructive civil coexistence, founded in mutual respect and loyal dialogue, values that a country always needs," the Holy Father said.

During his discourse, the Pontiff reflected on the special relationship that many times is created between a religion teacher and his students. "It is significant," he noted, "that the kids stay in contact with the [teacher] even after their studies."

"The high number of those who choose this material is, moreover, a sign of the irreplaceable value that it has in the formative path and an indication of the high quality level it has reached," he added.

Benedict XVI observed that the study of religion offers not only useful knowledge, but "favors reflection on the deep meaning of existence."

"This is possible," he continued, "because this teaching puts the human person and his inviolable dignity at the center, allowing itself to be enlightened by the unique experience of Jesus of Nazareth, about whom it seeks to investigate his identity, which does not cease to question man ever since 2,000 years ago."

"Thanks to the teaching of the Catholic religion, schools and society are enriched with true laboratories of culture and humanity, in which, discovering the significant contribution of Christianity, the person is prepared to discover the good and to grow in responsibility," the Holy Father contended.

To achieve this, he added, a religion teacher should not be prepared only at the human, cultural and pedagogical level, but above all, he has a vocation to show "that the God of whom you speak in the classroom is the essential reference point of your life."

The Bishop of Rome expressed his wish for the teachers that "the Lord gives you the joy of never being ashamed of his Gospel, the grace to live it, the passion to share and cultivate the novelty that springs from him for the life of the world."

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