Archbishop Duka wrote to Mons. Aldo Giordano
Letter of Archbishop Dominik Duka OP to Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe
Prague, June 18, 2010
many greetings to you from the Roman Catholic Bishops of the Czech Republic. Having been elected the President of the Czech Bishops’ Conference please let me address you as the permanent observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe.
Within the current context of the discourse on the European matters and values I would like to comment the upcoming decision of the European Court on the displaying of religious symbols in public schools. I would like to highlight the relations of this discourse to the religious feelings of the people and traditions of the European nations.
It was Christianity with the form of Judeo-Christian culture which stood at the birth and forming of European-American civilization and to this very day these values are the unique values able to keep Europe alive, active and strong. By the way these values were those applied at the formation of the European Union. Christianity has always affirmed the autonomy of the spiritual and the temporal and has always been open to religious pluralism with respect for the rights of believers and non-believers. Even today as other religions spread and take advantage of the multicultural reality it keeps in showing this respect.
For religious feelings of Christians of all denominations it has always been very important the presence of religious symbols especially the one of cross. It has no intention to exclude anyone, on the contrary it expresses a tradition known and recognized by everyone, playing role of a catalyst of dialogue with every person of good will without distinction of faith, ethnicity or nationality with a special attention to anyone suffering or in need.
The sign of cross stand in the Christian culture and religious tradition for common salvation and freedom of people. Expressing the highest altruism, generosity and deepest solidarity offered to all it does not impose a religion.
If our societies of Christian traditions are not to fail and are still to transmit to future generations their own identity and values they should not refuse the public display of their religious symbols. This is especially crucial in places where children are educated. Otherwise they would be societies contradicting themselves cutting themselves from the living spiritual and cultural heritage which gives them both roots and openness to future. We recall that Christianity in countries with Christian tradition has contributed in a crucial way to the formation of national culture. In this context the Crosses especially in schools are not only tolerable and justified but also a positive element.
The right to freedom of religion exists in all European countries and even grows and other religious symbols are allowed. The Churches and Christians have always argued for dialogue with other Churches and religions. The freedom of religion for all is the only context in which the dialogue between religions can develop. Europe needs respect for the ancient traditions of each its people and nation.
Thank you for allowing me to express this strong feeling of the Bishops of the Czech Republic in such a concise and direct way and to contribute to a very recent discussion on the display of the sign of the cross in schools. We believe it is not the jurisdiction of the European court to make decisions on the issues of religion and questions of morality in general. We understand the role of the Court in a quite opposite way which is to work within the framework of morality transmitted to our time from the Greek-Roman and Christian civilization.
Dear Monsignor, let me make use of this opportunity to wish you and you co-operators well and God’s blessing for your work on the field of promotion of values which have the power to keep Europe alive and dynamic respecting justice and supporting human rights. As once a political prisoner from the time of Communist totalitarianism I am very sure that we have much in common with many in our views on these crucial topics which make world a better place to live.
Sincerely yours in Christo
+ Dominik Duka O.P.
Archbishop of Prague and Primate of the Czech lands
President of the Czech Bishops' Conference