Debate on secularism

Omnes-April 7, 2021-Reading time: 2 minutes

The Pope's visit to Iraq ended a few weeks ago, with so many significant moments that have remained well imprinted in the historical memory of the world; the main ones are the subject of an opinion column in this issue. One of those singular moments was the prayer "of the children of Abraham", pronounced by Francis in the presence of several Muslim representatives and in ideal union, also, with the believers of Judaism, precisely in the city of Ur, from where Abraham departed. The Holy Father prayed that God "may make us instruments of reconciliation, builders of a fairer and stronger society". 

The Pope thus alluded to the role-and the responsibility-that religions have in building up the social order, naturally from their own perspective, which is not exclusively earthly. Indeed, religion is not just a private or internal matter, hidden in the conscience of believers, but has a consubstantial external and collective dimension. Three years ago, also in an interreligious context, the Pope spoke of the timeliness of this approach "in the face of that dangerous paradox that persists in our days, according to which on the one hand there is a tendency to reduce religion to the private sphere, without recognizing it as a constitutive dimension of the human being and of society and, on the other hand, the religious and political spheres are confused without distinguishing them properly". (Cairo, April 28, 2017). These are precisely the two extremes to which, in practice, secularism ends up leading. 

But there are other ways of shaping and normatively channeling the contribution of religions to social life that avoid these risks. This is the case of what is usually called "laicism", of which the Spanish Constitution is an example; more specifically, it has formulated it in a way that the Constitutional Court has called "positive laicism". It is in line with what has been pointed out by other democratic systems, either because this is expressly defined in their constitutional texts, or also as a result of a prudent redirection of approaches that were originally less collaborative with religious confessions.

Omnes organized a Forum to discuss these questions and their practical implications. Luis Argüello, Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference) and of Judaism (Don Isaac Querub, of the Jewish communities), moderated by Professor Montserrat Gas. The dialogue not only contributed to clarify theoretical concepts, but also shed light and provided arguments on current debates and proposals. Those interested can watch it at any time at YouTube.

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