The first phrase of the First Amendment spoke to the freedom uppermost in Jefferson's mind when it provided that, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. ' Here a double guarantee could be found: first, that government would do nothing to give official endorsement to a religion or to set one faith above another; second, that government would do nothing to inhibit the freedom of religion.
Contemporary Christianity, diverse and complex as we find it, actually may show more unanimity than the Christian churches of the first and second centuries. For nearly all Christians since that time, Catholics, Protestants, or Orthodox, have shared three basic premises. First, they accept the canon of the New Testament; second, they confess the apostolic creed; and third, they affirm specific forms of church institution. But every one of these - the canon of Scripture, the creed, and the institutional structure - emerged in its present form only toward the end of the second century.
I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs to all of humanity!