Pope Francis has vowed to protect religious minorities, while calling for them to be allowed to proselytize in their own communities.
The Pope’s remarks Wednesday were in a speech to the World Council of Churches.
“I believe in a certain sense that there is a need for people to be protected in the way they choose to live their lives,” Francis said in his speech.
“But the church must not allow itself to be reduced to an instrument of state.
The church must continue to be the bridge between God and people.”
The Pontiff made the comments in response to a question from an elderly Moldovan woman, who asked about the Vatican’s response to Moldovan lawmakers’ demands for the country to grant the right to publicly worship.
Pope Francis, who will be leaving for Rome on Thursday, made a similar appeal in September, when he was asked by the head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom whether the church in Moldova should be allowed the right “to use the name of God in the public sphere.”
“The church must also not allow its members to be used as a tool of state or of economic or political domination,” Francis wrote.
In his remarks Wednesday, Francis said that, in many parts of the world, “the people are the masters, and the church is not.”
Pope Joseph, who died in May, has repeatedly called for the protection of religious minorities in his time, but Francis has been more vocal about the importance of protecting them.
Francis’ remarks Wednesday reflect his commitment to promoting dialogue and tolerance among Catholics, Jews and Muslims in the West, a priority that is a key part of his papacy.
Earlier this month, Francis spoke at a Vatican event hosted by the American Jewish Committee, where he told attendees that he is proud to have been born in America, but he added that he hopes the country’s Jews, as well as their descendants, will also continue to live in peace.