Pope Benedict XVI on Religion in the Public Sphere

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Department or Administrative Unit


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The role of religion in the public sphere has given rise to much discussion in recent times. Debate has focused mainly on the work of political scientists and philosophers on the relations between secular and religious reasons. The voices of religious figures themselves have been almost completely absent from these debates, perhaps as a representative example of the separation that secular societies make between rational and religious reasons. This paper explores the discourse of one such religious leader, Pope Benedict XVI, on religion in the public sphere through the analysis of two discussions sustained consecutively with secular thinkers Jurgen Habermas and Marcello Pera one year prior to Benedict's papacy. The author argues that the Pope's concern with injecting the Christian voice into the public discourse fails to address other religious voices. Benedict's model of the European public sphere incorporates Christian rationality into public reason, yet reproduces an asymmetry between Christians and other believers parallel to that which the liberal state has created between secular and religious citizens.


This article was originally published in Journal of Communication & Religion. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Communication & Religion


Religious Communication Association