In a statement that seemed calculated to arouse controversy, Pope Benedict has claimed that no religious group is more persecuted because of its faith than Christians.
The Pope made his claim in his message for the 44 World Day of Peace which will be held on January 1, 2011 (the contents of his message was released by the Vatican on Friday).
The Pope wrote: "At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith - this situation is unacceptable since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity."
Benedict suggested that religious minorities in Asia and Africa suffer from intimidation and the violation of their rights, basic freedoms and essential goods, including the loss of personal freedom and life itself.
The Pope also lamented what he called the "more sophisticated forms of hostility" toward Christianity in western countries.
The pope added that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in that "both absolutise a reductive and partial vision of the human person."
To exclude religion from public life, the Pope argued, makes it difficult to "guide societies towards universal ethical principles" such as the fundamental rights set forth in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Pope concluded: "The world needs God. It needs universal and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels."
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore