Vatican City, 14 November 2013 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis visited the president of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, in the Quirinal Palace, where he arrived shortly after 11 o'clock, after crossing the centre of Rome by car. Upon arrival he was greeted by the Head of State in the courtyard of the palace, where he received military honours and the anthems of both Vatican City State and Italy were played. President Napolitano then accompanied the Pope to the library; the members of the government awaited them in the antechamber. This is the third meeting between the Holy Father and the president: the first was on 19 March, the first day of his pontificate, and the second took place on 8 June, when the Italian Head of State visited the Vatican. Today, the Bishop of Rome returns this visit.
Pope Francis thanked President Napolitano for his many gestures of attention in these first eight months of his pontificate, which he described as a continuation of those demonstrated during Napolitano's seven years of office during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. He recalled his predecessor with affection, recalling his 2008 visit to the Quirinale, which he described as the “symbolic home of all Italians”. Paying a visit “to this place, so rich in symbols and history, ideally I would like to knock on the doors of each inhabitant of the country, when the roots of my earthly family lie, and offer the word of the Gospel, healing and always new, to all”.
The Pope mentioned the key moments in the relationship between the Italian State and the Holy See, and cited the inclusion in the Constitution of the Republic of the Lateran Pacts and the Agreement on the Revision of the Concordat; almost thirty years have passed since this latter, which represents “the legislative frame of reference for the serene development of relations between State and Church, a framework which reflects and supports the daily collaboration in the service of the human person with a view to the common good, in the distinction of their respective roles and spheres of action. There are many matters with regard to which we have common concerns and our responses may converge. The current moment is marked by the economic crisis which is difficult to overcome and whose gravest effects include a lack of employment. It is necessary to multiply efforts to alleviate the consequences of the crisis and to seize and strengthen any sign of recovery”.
In this context, “the main task of the Church is to bear witness to God's mercy and to encourage a generous response of solidarity to open up a future of hope; because where hope grows, there is an increase in energy and commitment to the construction of a more human and just social and civil order, and new potential emerges for healthy and sustainable development”. The Holy Father mentioned his pastoral visits in Italy, especially to the island of Lampedusa where he encountered the suffering of those who, because of war or poverty, are compelled to emigrate, often in desperate conditions” and where he saw “the commendable solidarity of those who dedicate themselves to the work of welcoming” these immigrants. He also recalled the trips to Cagliari, where he prayed before the Madonna of Bonaria, and Assisi, to venerate the Saint of Italy and the patron whose name he has taken. “Also in these places I have touched with my hands the wounds that afflict many people”.
The family, “fulcrum of hope and social problems”, was the final topic of the Pope's address. He emphasised that the Church continues to promote the efforts of all, individuals and institutions, in support of the family, which is the primary location in which the human being is formed and grows, and where values are transmitted along with the examples that make them credible. The family needs the stability and recognition of mutual bonds in order to carry out fully its unique role and to achieve its mission. While the family makes its energies available to society, it asks in return to be appreciated, valued and protected”.
Before leaving the palace, Pope Francis met with workers in the Quirinal, along with their families. He thanked Napolitano for the familiarity of the encounter and directly addressed the children present, whom he described as “very important”. The Holy Father, recalling that the employees of the Quirinal are often aware of the social and family problems that Italians wish to make known to the president, encouraged them to treat all people with a spirit of “welcome and understanding”, and added that “there is a great need for people who work with professionalism and a strong sense of humanity and comprehension, with sympathetic attention especially towards the weakest. I urge you not to be discouraged by difficulties, but to be ready to support each other”.
The Bishop of Rome took leave of the president, expressing his wish that, “supported by prayer, Italy may draw upon her rich heritage of civil and spiritual vales, and find again the creativity and consensus necessary for harmonious development, to promote the common good and the dignity of every person, and to offer to the international community her contribution for peace and justice”.