Vatican Prelate Touts Obeying Local Laws

Frances D’Emilio, AP, Nov. 14, 2006

The Vatican on Tuesday stepped into the debate about Muslim women wearing veils, with a top cardinal saying immigrants must follow the laws of their host countries, including any bans on such face-covering.

Countries “must require that guests who arrive from a different culture must respect the traditions, the symbols, the culture, the religion of the countries they go to,” said Renato Martino, the Italian prelate who heads the Vatican’s office on issues concerning migrants, itinerant workers and refugees.

Martino, responding to a question about veils from a reporter, said respect for local laws would include any bans on such coverings.

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Vatican Radio reiterated the stance, saying “the question of the veil for Islamic women” should be “considered in the context of respect for the laws of the countries which welcome” them.

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Flanking the cardinal, another Vatican official who deals with immigration issues, Monsignor Agostino Marchetto, referred to Italy’s law requiring people to keep their face visible in public.

That law dates to Italy’s crackdown on domestic terrorism decades ago.

Marchetto said Italy “rightly” has such a law and that obeying it is “part of accepting the law of this country.”

“Dialogue is needed with our brothers to make them understand the consequences of some of their desires, such as their own cultural and religious traditions, would not be positive in the society they are now in,” Marchetto said.

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Italy, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, also has been debating how to integrate immigrants from other cultures and religions.

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The pope has been lobbying for Christians’ right to worship openly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which forbids Christians from practicing their religion.

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