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Monday, March 9, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI travelled to Rome Town Hall, located on the city's Capitoline Hill, where he met with Mayor Gianni Alemanno and various civic leaders.

  The Holy Father was greeted in the square in front of the Town Hall by Gianni Alemanno and his wife Isabella Rauti. He then entered the building and went up to the mayor's office where he emerged onto the balcony which enjoys a panoramic view over the Roman Forum. The ceremony subsequently continued in the Hall of Tapestries where Benedict XVI greeted municipal counsellors and public functionaries, and in the Hall of Flags where he signed the "Libro d'Oro".

  At 11.30 a.m. before a gathering of the municipal council in the Julius Caesar Hall, the mayor made a speech in which he announced the construction of a help-centre dedicated to Benedict XVI. The centre, for disadvantaged young people, is to be built on a plot of land belonging to Rome city authorities. The mayor having completed his remarks, the Holy Father rose to deliver his address, at the beginning of which he recalled the three visits of his predecessors to the Capitoline Hill: Blessed Pius IX in 1870, Paul VI in 1966 and John Paul II on 15 January 1998.

  "These visits are a testament to the affection and respect Peter's Successors, pastors of the Catholic community of Rome and of the universal Church, have always nourished for Rome, the centre of Latin and Christian civilisation and 'hospitable mother of peoples'", he said.

  The Holy Father gave renewed assurances of "the paternal concern that the bishop of the Catholic community" feels for all the inhabitants of the city, and for people who come to Rome for religious or cultural reasons, or for tourism or work. Recalling, then, how the mayor had expressed the hope that "Rome may continue to be a beacon of liberty, promoting ethical civilisation and sustainable development while respecting the dignity of all human beings", the Pope reaffirmed that "the Catholic Church, as always, will not fail to provide her active support for all cultural and social initiatives that seek to promote the authentic good of all people and of the city as a whole".

  As evidence of such collaboration, Benedict XVI mentioned the gift of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church he had given to the mayor and to the civic leaders of the city.

  "Rome has always been a welcoming city", said the Holy Father noting that, "like Italy and the whole of mankind, it currently finds itself facing unprecedented cultural, social and economic challenges caused by the profound transformations and numerous changes of the last few decades. Rome has come to be inhabited by people from other nations who belong to different cultures and religious traditions; as a consequence it now has the aspect of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious metropolis in which integration is at times demanding and complex".

  Benedict XVI emphasised the contribution made by the Catholic community in "protecting the fundamental rights of individuals, while respecting the law", and he expressed the conviction that, drawing energy from a history moulded by "ancient law and Christian faith, Rome will find the strength to ensure that everyone abides by the laws of civil coexistence, and to reject all forms of intolerance and discrimination".

  "Recent episodes of violence, which we all deplore, are an expression of a deeper malaise. They are, I would say, a sign of the real spiritual poverty afflicting the heart of modern man. Eliminating God and His law, as a way of achieving man's happiness, has not in fact achieved its goal. On the contrary it deprives man of the spiritual certainties and the hope necessary to face the difficulties and challenges of everyday life".

  "Rome must rediscover its most profound soul, its civil and Christian roots, if it wishes to promote a new humanism which focuses upon man, recognised in the fullness of his truth. Man, detached from God, loses his transcendent vocation. Christianity carries a shining message of the truth about man; and the Church, which is the depository of that message, is aware of her responsibility towards contemporary culture".

  Finally, the Pope thanked the mayor for the dedication of the help-centre for disadvantaged youth. It will, he said, "bear the name of an old Pontiff who looks trustingly to young people and prays for them every day. ... May this new enterprise be a stimulus for Rome to create a social fabric of acceptance and respect, where the meeting between culture and faith, between social life and religious witness, may co-operate to create a community that is truly free and animated by feelings of peace".
BXVI-VISIT/TOWN HALL/ROME                    VIS 20090309 (800)

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