WASHINGTON (October 15, 1998) --Gerard F. Powers, Director of the Office for International Justice and Peace, United States Catholic Conference, hailed passage of the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (H.R. 2431). This is the text of his statement, issued October 13.
"The U.S. Catholic bishops welcome passage of the Senate substitute for the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (H.R. 2431) by the Congress. This legislation seeks to make promotion of religious liberty an explicit U.S. foreign policy goal, a linkage that the bishops have long sought for the full range of fundamental human rights.
"We worked for passage of this legislation, originally introduced in March as the International Religious Freedom Act (S. 1868), based on modifications addressing our chief concerns. Despite further revisions aimed at securing the bill's passage in the face of considerable opposition, we remain hopeful that this legislation will prove an effective though modest means of addressing a vital human rights issue that has been overlooked far too often.
"As pastors of a universal Church, the U.S. Catholic bishops are all too familiar with the human face of religious persecution around the world. We earnestly hope that this legislation will help ease the plight of those who suffer simply for their faith, and we very much look forward to working with the ambassador and independent commission established by the bill for the benefit of people of faith everywhere."