Pope Benedict XVI says that Christians’ religious freedom is coming under renewed attack and compared the attackers to Nazis and Bolsheviks.

Pope Benedict XVI

He told members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences that religious freedom was among the rights that underwent a “systematic denial by atheistic regimes of the twentieth century” such as the Soviets and Hitler’s Brown Shirts.

“Today,” he warned, “these basic human rights are again under threat from attitudes and ideologies which would impede free religious expression.”

“Consequently,” he said, “the challenge to defend and promote the right to freedom of religion and freedom of worship must be taken up once more in our days.”

“The roots of the West’s Christian culture remain deep,” he said, noting it was “that culture which gave life and space to religious freedom” — and continues to provide religious liberty wherever democracy exists.

He observed that an early Christian writer, Tertullian, was the first author to use the phrase “religious freedom.” The second-century Christian philosopher “emphasized that God must be worshiped freely,” not under coercion.”

“Since man enjoys the capacity for a free personal choice in truth,” said Benedict, “and since God expects of man a free response to His call, the right to religious freedom should be viewed as innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person.”

Benedict said the Vatican “continues to appeal for the recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom on the part of all states.”

He voiced a special concern for “religious minorities who … aspire to live with their fellow citizens peacefully and to participate fully in the civil and political life of the nation.”

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