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Monday, April 18, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI, who celebrates his 84th birthday today, received in audience Maria Jesus Figa Lopez-Palop, the first woman to serve as Spain's Ambassador to the Holy See.

  At the beginning of his address, the Pope recalled his visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona this past November where, he said, "I saw many demonstrations of the vitality of the Catholic faith of those lands that have seen the births of so many saints and which are sown with cathedrals, centers of assistance and culture, which are inspired by the fertile tradition and faithfulness of its inhabitants to their religious beliefs. This also entails the responsibility of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See that always endeavor to promote, with mutual respect and collaboration, within each one's legitimate autonomy in their respective areas, everything that promotes the good of persons and the authentic development of their rights and freedoms, which include the expression of their faith and conscience, both in the public as well as in the private sphere".

  The Holy Father highlighted that "the Church, in carrying out her mission, seeks the whole good of each nation and its citizens, acting in the area of her competency and fully respecting the autonomy of civil authorities. She seeks the good of those who are dear to her and those who ask God to serve Him in society with generosity, honor, skill, and justice. This goal, in which the Church's mission and the function of the state meet, moreover has given expression to bilateral accords between Spain and the Holy See".

  Referring afterwards to the difficult economic situation today, with its resultant unemployment "that provokes discouragement and frustration, especially in the youth and less-privileged families", the Pope assured his prayers that God "will enlighten those with public responsibilities, that they will tirelessly seek a path of recovery that is beneficial to all of society".  In this regard he emphasized the praiseworthy work that the Catholic institutions are carrying out to swiftly assist those most in need". 

  "The Church", he continued, "offers something inherent to her, which benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ, the hope that encourages and strengthens, like an antidote to the deception offered by other fleeting proposals or to the hearts lacking in values that wind up hardening to the point of not being able to perceive the genuine emotion of life and the reason of things. This hope gives birth to confidence and collaboration, thus changing the bleak present into the spirit's effort to face the future with hope, both as a person as well as a family and a society".

  Benedict XVI lamented that "in place of living and organizing society in such a way that favors openness and excellence, there are ways of living, often even having a certain sophistication, that are hostile to faith. ... There are certain environments that tend to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor that seek to offend it. This does not excuse the marginalization of religion, that at times takes place through denigration, ridicule, discrimination, and even indifference in the face of clear profanation. Such is a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom inherent to the dignity of the human person, the "true weapon of peace because it can change and better the world".

  "The Church", he said, "Keeps watch over fundamental human rights. ... She keeps watch over the right to human life from its conception to its natural end because life is sacred and nobody can dispose of it arbitrarily. She keeps watch over the protection of and assistance to the family, defending the economic, social, and juridical means by which men and women contract marriage and form a family so that it has the support necessary to fulfill its vocation and to be the sanctuary of love and life. She also champions education that integrates moral and religious values according to parents' convictions as their right and as is beneficial to the complete development of youth. For that same reason this is included, as is the provision of teaching the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, in the Church's own legal ordinances.

  Before concluding, the Pope expressed the desire that the next World Youth Day that will take place in Madrid in August, "will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the youth and for Spain. I also note the availability, cooperation, and generous assistance that the [Spanish] government as well as autonomous and local authorities are extending for the success of an initiative that will attract the attention of the entire world and will demonstrate once more the greatness of the hearts and souls of the Spanish people".
CD/                                    VIS 20110418 (780)

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