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  • Pope Francis Addressed Religious Liberty While In The Heart Of Philadelphia

    Pope Francis offered a robust defense of religious liberty, an inescapable topic in U.S. politics today, while speaking Saturday at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

    Francis is famous for abandoning his prepared remarks when the spirit moves him. So far in his visit to the States, Francis has mostly stuck to his script — except in instances like Saturday afternoon’s, speaking informally in Spanish to friendly audiences of fellow-Catholics.

    So, in an inspired impromptu, the pope boiled down the speech to an aside that perfectly summarized his message. “Religious activity is not just a subculture,” he declared. “It’s part of the culture of every people and every nation!” (RELATED: Pope Francis Met Little Sisters Of The Poor In Quiet Protest Of Obamacare)

    The comment was a deft aside in an address defending religious liberty as a core American value, one which depends on protecting the rights of those with whom one disagrees. He quoted a 1987 message to American Catholics from Pope John Paul II: “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.”

    In his papacy so far, Francis has focused on the most critical, attention-grabbing cases of religious freedom, such as the violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East. But since arriving in the U.S. Wednesday, he has vocally endorsed Christians who say legal battles over health care and marriage may soon threaten their ability to operate freely. (RELATED: Pope Francis’ New Accessory Is The Cross Of A Beheaded Iraqi Priest)

    By dismissing the view of religion as a “subculture,” Francis fought back against a growing tendency to limit religious freedom to mere “freedom of worship.” Throughout his visit, he has insisted that service and labor are inseparable from the Christian life, paying particular tribute to schools, charities and male and female religious orders.

    Later on in Saturday’s address, the pope made another diversion from the script. He drew a contrast between two different kinds of globalization. One brings the world’s people closer together: “all are united but everybody can see his own identity.”

    The other, he said, flattens what makes each of us unique, “destroying the richness and specificity of each person and every people.”

    This focus on the individual person amid huge global abstractions has been a central message in Francis’ American visit. From the United Nations to a Catholic school in an immigrant neighborhood in New York, he has insisted that without recognizing individual dignity and freedom, the best-intended plans and policies are ultimately destructive. (RELATED: Pope Praises UN On Climate, Poverty — But Warns Against Mere Bureaucracy)

    Francis is in Philadelphia to participate in the World Meeting of Families, a conference promoting the Catholic view of the family and marriage. He will also visit a prison in the Philadelphia area, and fly back to the Vatican late Sunday.

    Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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