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Lumen Fidei and Religious Freedom


“Faith illumines life and society ... there is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.”

-Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei

This weekend I read Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei (a brief 48 pages), in which deep theology and accessible guidance are deftly imparted. Francis presents a beautiful, pastoral case for the Christian faith amidst a world of disbelief—an argument especially relevant in the current debate over religious liberty.

Faith is often a sensitive topic that few brave souls approach with ten-foot-poles; we see it as a private affair, a subjective voice best kept hushed as we consume our daily doses of MTV from the cafeteria. Yet this tendency of confining faith to personal habits risks the marginalization of religion. Rights diminish if not consistently exercised, and limiting religious freedom loses its problematic nature if it has little effect on the common believer.

In contrast, Francis stresses that people of faith are called to publicly live and defend their beliefs--not shun them as uncomfortable social taboo. According to the pope, the life of faith is both a personal and social response to the Divine call of love. Wholly relevant to the concrete concerns of our time, it should be embraced as a light of Truth and source of communion, rather than rest within marginalized Sunday sanctuaries.

Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed ... [it] makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good.

The full restoration and protection of religious liberty can only occur within this context of personal witness. We are therefore called to shake the dust of indifference, to commit to lives imbued with an active spirit of faithfulness in the public square.


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