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Catholics, Protestants and Others in Latin America PDF Print E-mail

Brigido Barrios
Committee for the Defense of Religious Freedom, Venezuela

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Washington DC, April 17-19, 1998

There is a great desire for justice and peace in the world. Man does not want wars or conflicts where lives are lost, and we have the intention to eliminate hunger in the world. Today world leaders are talking about the desire to live in a world where human rights are respected. One of these great men is Pope John Paul II, the primary leader of the Catholic Church. He is a great fighter for justice.

Several codes can give us a frame of reference for this message. For instance, on September 27, 1990, John Paul II said with respect to the dissolution of the Soviet Union: “The Vatican expressed today, that it is a joy to see that there is a new law in the Soviet Union about freedom of conscience and there is justice for millions of believers.” The spokesman for the Vatican said, “Now we wait with great interest for new measures.”

On August 18, 1991, the pope sent Pastor Vincent to the city of Deversing in Hungary, a country with a minority of Protestants. On a pilgrimage to Hungary, John Paul II asked all Europeans if they have the purity of heart to accept religious and cultural diversity.

On July 17, 1997, the pope sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin expressing his concern over restrictions on the rights of minority religions in Russia. He is worried for the possible risks that Catholics might have to endure if Yeltsin promoted this proposal as a law to the Russian Parliament.

On August 24, 1997, the pope’s visit to France coincided with the 425th anniversary of the Night of Saint Bartholomew in 1572, when about 3,000 French Protestants were massacred. John Paul II asked for forgiveness and apologized because Catholics executed acts that the Gospel rejects or disapproves.