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Monday, December 19, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Bernard Kessedjian, the new ambassador of France to the Holy See.

  The Pope began his address to the diplomat by referring to the fact that this year France is celebrating the centenary of the law separating Church and State. "As my predecessor John Paul II recalled in a letter addressed to French bishops," he said, "the principle of the lay State lies in a healthy distinction of powers, it is by no means antagonistic and does not exclude the Church's ever more active participation in social life, while maintaining full respect for the competencies of each side."

  "This concept," the Pope went on, "must promote the Church's autonomy, both in her organization and her mission. On this matter, I view very positively ... the dialogue between the Church and civil authorities in all fields," so that "all forces concerned with the wellbeing of society may unite their efforts in the interests of citizens."

  "Your country has gone through a difficult period," said Benedict XVI, "that has made manifest the profound dissatisfaction among certain groups of young people. This situation seems to have touched not only the outskirts of the big cities, but all sectors of the population. The internal violence that marks societies, and that is to be absolutely condemned, nonetheless expresses a message, especially in the case of young people, and invites us bear their needs in mind and to provide - as Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux and president of the French Episcopal Conference has said - 'a response equal to these dramatic tensions in our society'."

  The Pope then went on the mention the contribution to French development made by the numerous foreign workers who emigrated to the country, especially since the Second World War. "It is important," he said, "to thank them and their descendents for this economic, cultural and social wealth of which they are an integral part. The vast majority of them have become French in every sense of the word. The challenge today is to uphold the values of equality and fraternity, which are a constituent part of French identity, so that all the country's citizens, while respecting legitimate differences, may form part of an authentic shared culture, one that carries fundamental moral and spiritual values."

  The Holy Father also called for special attention to be given to "the institution of marriage and the family, with which no other form of relationship can be compared."

  "I also wish to call the attention of all men and women of good will," he continued, "to the decisions and actions to be taken in the field of bioethics, which is showing an ever greater tendency to consider the human being, especially in the first moments of life, as a mere object of research. It is important to consider ethical questions not only from the point of view of science, but also from the perspective of human beings, a perspective which has to be respected. If this fundamental moral criterion is not accepted, it will be difficult to create a society that respects all its members without distinction."

  Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the aid given by France to developing countries. By way of example, he mentioned the recent African-French summit in Mali, and recalled that the responsibility of rich countries towards poor ones does not only consist in giving them "financial help, but also training and education, ... so that these nations may become ever more independent and masters of their own destiny."

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