Catholic Archbishop Bernardito Auza addressed attendees of the Constitutional Symposium on Religious Freedom at Utah Valley University on April 13, 2015, and spoke of the commonalities between Mormons and Catholics.
The archbishop, a permanent representative of the Catholic Church to the UN, previously spent six years as a Catholic ambassador in Haiti. Auza’s experiences and dealings with The Church of Jesus Christ were highlighted in his remarks. Auza said,
[Mormons and Catholics] have much in common: a focus on the family, emphasis on education, charity and living and sharing our faith publicly.
Recently, the ties between the Catholic Church and the LDS Church have been strengthened in an effort to support and uphold religious freedom.
Religious freedom was defined by the archbishop as the “first freedom, a fundamental human right, from which other rights necessarily flow, and which must always be protected, defended and promoted.”
Auza spoke extensively on both historical and modern-day religious persecution and how it has become more mainstream. “Religious persecution, be it overt or discrete, is emerging with an increased frequency and barbarity worldwide,” Auza said.
The Middle East, Auza explained, has long been a battle ground for religious freedom and many Christians have suffered and died for their faith. “[The Middle East] is literally soaked with [Christian] blood,” Auza said. “Even as we speak, thousands are being killed, persecuted, deprived of their fundamental human rights and discriminated against simply because they profess a faith, in particular if they are Christians.”
Auza boldy stated that persecuters have not succeeded in suppressing the beliefs and convictions of Christians.
Mormon persecution was also mentioned by Auza, “Mormons in the United States have suffered a great deal as well and sometimes, sadly, even from Catholics,” he explained. “However, [Mormons] allowed God to draw good out of their sufferings endured and made lemonade out of the lemons.”
Learning and Growing From Other Faiths
Auza spoke of his admiration for the organization and programs of the LDS Church. He specifically mentioned LDS youth seminary and said that this program “leaves Catholic pastors with holy jealousy.”
Brian Birch, Director of the Religious Studies Program and Center for the Study of Ethics at Utah Valley University, said that Mormons can learn a great deal from Catholicisim.
“Catholicism is beautiful and rich tradition. There is a sense of mystery, wonder, and piety that could inform Latter-day Saints in their spiritual lives,” Birch told LDS.net. “Also, there is tremendous emphasis on caring for the poor and needy, which has been an area of added emphasis for the LDS Church in recent years.”