New Concordat With Portugal Is Applauded

64-Year-Old Pact Replaced

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2004 ( John Paul II welcomed the signing of a new concordat between the Holy See and Portugal, saying he hopes it fosters ever greater understanding between the two.

After the signing of the document in the Vatican, by Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso, the Pope received the Portuguese representative in a 10-minute audience.

The Holy Father expressed his «profound appreciation for the attention that the government and Assembly of the Portuguese republic have shown for the mission of the Church» with this signature, which should abrogate the previous concordat, in force for 64 years, considered obsolete given the changes in Portuguese national life.

«I hope that the new concordat will foster ever better understanding between the authorities of the state and the pastors of the Church for the benefit of the common good of the nation,» the Pontiff added in his brief address in Portuguese.

The concordat must now be approved by the Portuguese Parliament and by the president of the republic.

The prime minister’s delegation congratulated John Paul II on his 84th birthday. Durão Barroso expressed good wishes on behalf of the government and in his personal capacity, describing the Pope as a «great world personality, in which we all recognize a tireless defender of peace and human rights.»

The new, 33-article concordat regulates such important questions as marriage, religious service, the patrimony and fiscal governance of the Church.

According to a Holy See note, with this agreement «the state guarantees to the Church the public and free exercise of its activities, in particular, in regard to worship, teaching and ministry, as well as jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters.»

«In addition, it recognizes religious freedom, in particular in realms such as conscience, worship, meeting, association, public expression, education and charitable activity.»

The concordat recognizes for the first time the juridical personality of the Portuguese episcopal conference. The Catholic Church will be able to receive 0.5% of the income tax that citizens can allocate to various institutions in their annual tax returns, the Portuguese Catholic agency Ecclesia explained.

The concordat stipulates that the Portuguese state must be informed immediately of the appointment or resignation of bishops, a power that corresponds exclusively to the Holy See.

The concordat also stipulates the civil recognition of a non-consummated canonical marriage. These are cases in which, as the Code of Canon Law establishes, there has been no sacramental marriage, despite the fact that a ceremony took place.

About 93% of Portugal’s 10 million people are Catholic.

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