Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received a State visit from the president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella. The visit takes place just two months after his election, and as the Pontiff remarked, “shows the excellent relations between the Holy See and Italy”. There is a long-standing tradition of regular meetings between the Italian authorities and the Universal Church, reinforced following Vatican Council II.
In his address to the president, the Pope referred first to the Lateran Pacts, incorporated into the Republican Constitution, which constitute “a solid framework for reference, within which the relations between Italy and the Holy See have been peacefully developed and strengthened, guaranteeing mutual sovereignty and independence and at the same time ensuring mutual orientation towards active collaboration, on the basis of shared values and in view of the common good”. For this, it is fundamental for collaboration to be constantly renewed, “distinguishing roles and competences and with full respect for reciprocal functions”, with the aim of “uniting forces for the good of all citizens, who have the right to such harmony, from which they derive innumerable benefits. … Reciprocal autonomy does not diminish, but indeed enhances common responsibility for human beings and for the spiritual and material needs of the community, which we all have the task of serving with humility and dedication”.
“A healthy pluralism does not reject the specific contribution offered by the various ideal and religious members that make up our society, provided that, of course, they accept the fundamental principals that guide civil life, and do not exploit or distort their beliefs to violent and abusive ends. In other words, the orderly development of a pluralistic civil society presupposes that it does not claim to confine the true religious spirit solely to the intimacy of the conscience, but that it also recognises its significant role in the building of society, legitimating the the valuable contribute that it may offer”. In this respect, the history of Italy clearly demonstrates both the great contribution of Christianity to her culture and the character of her population, and the extent to which Christian faith has permeated the art, architecture and customs of the country”.
The Pope did not fail to mention, among the fundamental goods for the development of each community, the importance of work, “distinguished by its bond with the very dignity of the person, with the possibility of building a dignified and free existence”, and he emphasised that “the lack of work for the young becomes a cry of pain that must impel those in public office, intermediary organisations, private businesspeople and the ecclesial community to make every effort to remedy the situation, according the suitable priority to the problem. Indeed, the possibility of dignity and of the future resides in the availability of work”.
Another theme of the Pope's address was the protection of the environment, and in this regard he spoke about the Milan Universal Exposition, the theme of which is “Feeding the planet: energy for life”. “The event of the Expo will be an important occasion in which the most modern technologies necessary for guaranteeing healthy, safe and sufficient food for all peoples, respecting the environment, will be presented”, he said. “This may also contribute to deeper study of the causes of environmental degradation, in order to provide the competent authorities with a framework of knowledge and experience indispensable for making effective decisions and for preserving the health of the planet that God has entrusted to the care of humankind”.
Finally, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for Italy's efforts in receiving the many immigrants who, risking their lives, seek acceptance. “It is clear that the proportions of the phenomenon require a much broader involvement. We must never tire of soliciting more extensive efforts at European and international levels”.
Francis concluded by expressing his hope that Italy, “treasuring her noble traditions and culture, largely inspired by Christian faith, may progress and prosper in harmony, offering her valuable contribution to peace and justice in the world”.