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Cooperation and solidarity

· The Ambassador to the Holy Father ·

The following are excerpts of the address of the Ambassador H.E. Mr Joseph Weterings to Benedict XVI.

Your Holiness,

It is with mixed feelings that I stand before you today. I am on the one hand very sad that due to her untimely death, my predecessor, Baroness Henriëtte van Lynden-Leijten, was unable to complete her term as Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See. But I am also greatly honoured that it has pleased Her Majesty Queen Beatrix to appoint me as her Ambassador to the Holy See. It is therefore a very special and highly emotional moment for me as I present to you my Letters of Credence from Queen Beatrix. The Queen asked me to pass on to you her good wishes on this occasion.

The Netherlands has been involved in European integration from the very beginning. Europe is essential to our prosperity, freedom and security. Continued commitment to the European process is therefore in our direct interests, but subsidiarity — a principle to which Your Holiness often refers in the context of the Church — is crucial.

The Netherlands accords priority to themes such as the freedom of religion and belief and the freedom of expression. We actively oppose the persecution of religious minorities. We aim to build an open society based on respect for the individual, regardless of race, sex, conviction or orientation.

We support equal rights and opportunities for women. The Netherlands’ human rights fund supports projects that assist human rights defenders in their home countries. The Netherlands attaches great importance to corporate social responsibility and is also engaged in combating child labour.

In a number of areas, especially the universality of human rights, freedom of religion, interfaith dialogue, freedom of expression and the abolition of the death penalty, the Dutch position and that of the Holy See are the same. The worldwide Catholic Church has considerable influence in many countries in Africa and Asia in this regard. On moral and ethical issues, the Netherlands continues to seek dialogue with the Holy See in all openness. This creates room for each side to respect the other's standpoints.

In November 2009 the restoration of the Church of St Michael and St Magnus — the Church of the Frisians — in Rome was marked with the celebration of a Holy Mass. Since my arrival here, I have seen for myself that Sunday Mass in this church is a meeting place for Dutch speakers. Some are Roman Catholic pilgrims on their journey to one of the birthplaces of Christian civilization, while others are people of different denominations. This autumn will see the inauguration of the church organ, restored with funding from the Dutch Embassy to the Holy See, among other donors. These high points in Dutch religious life in Rome confirm once again the good relations between the Holy See and the Netherlands.

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