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  • Documents on Democracy


During a historic five-day trip to Cuba, Pope John Paul II touched on many themes, but especially emphasized freedom of worship and expression. Over the course of his visit, the Pope also called for the release of Cuban political prisoners and for an end to the U.S. embargo. Excerpts from his remarks during a meeting with Cuban bishops on 25 January 1998 appear below:

When the Church demands religious freedom she is not asking for a gift, a privilege or a permission dependent on contingent situations, political strategies or the will of the authorities. Rather she demands the effective recognition of an inalienable human right. This right cannot be conditioned by the behavior of the Pastors and the faithful, nor by the surrender of the exercise of any aspect of her mission, much less by ideological or economic considerations. It is not simply a matter of a right belonging to the Church as an institution, it is also a matter of a right belonging to every person and every people. Every individual and every people will be spiritually enriched to the extent that religious freedom is acknowledged and put into practice.

Furthermore, as I have already had occasion to state: “Religious freedom is a very important means of strengthening a people’s moral integrity. Civil society can count on believers who, because of their deep convictions, will not only not succumb readily to dominating ideologies or trends, but will endeavor to act in accordance with their aspirations to all that is true and right” (Message for the 1988 World Day of Peace, 3).

For this reason, dear Brothers, commit yourselves completely to promoting everything that favors the dignity and continuing improvement of human beings, for this is the first path that the Church must follow in fulfilling her mission (cf. Redemptor Hominis, 14). . . .

When the scale of values is inverted and politics, the economy and social activity are no longer placed at the service of people, the [End Page 190] human person comes to be viewed as a means rather than respected as the center and end of all these activities, and man is made to suffer in his essence and in his transcendent dimension. Human beings are then seen simply as consumers, and freedom is understood in a very individualistic and reductive sense, or men and women are seen as mere producers with little room for the exercise of civil and political liberties. None of these social and political models fosters a climate of openness to the transcendence of the person who freely seeks God.

On the preceding day, the Pope preached to a congregation of more than 150,000 people in Santiago de Cuba. Excerpts from his homily appear below:

The Church calls everyone to make faith a reality in their lives, as the best path to the integral development of the human being, created in the image and likeness of God, and for attaining true freedom, which includes the recognition of human rights and social justice. In this regard, lay Catholics—holding to their specific role as lay persons so that they may be “salt and leaven” in the midst of the society of which they are part—have the duty and the right to participate in public debate on the basis of equality and in an attitude of dialogue and reconciliation. Likewise, the good of a nation must be promoted and achieved by its citizens themselves through peaceful and gradual means. In this way each person, enjoying freedom of expression, being free to undertake initiatives and make proposals within civil society, and enjoying appropriate freedom of association, will be able to cooperate effectively in the pursuit of the common good.

South Korea

Former dissident and prodemocracy activist Kim Dae Jung was elected president of South Korea in December elections (see the article by David I. Steinberg on pp. 76–90 above). Excerpts from Kim’s inaugural address of 25 February 1998 follow:

The historic significance of today’s inaugural ceremony is great indeed; today is a proud day when a democratic transition of power is taking place on this soil for the first time. Moreover, it is a historic day...

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pp. 190-192
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