Pope Asks Spanish Government to Respect "Ethical Values"

Receives New Prime Minister in Audience

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II asked the Spanish government to encourage «modern development» and respect «ethical values» when he received Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in audience.

At the same time, the Pope assured the Socialist leader of the Holy See’s collaboration in the cause of peace, the struggle against terrorism and the promotion of human rights.

The Pope and Rodríguez Zapatero met privately today for about a quarter-hour in the Holy Father’s private library. John Paul II then delivered an address in Spanish to the members of the Spanish delegation, which included Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos.

Three days ago when receiving Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, the new Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, the Pope rejected the new Spanish government’s plans to allow more lenient abortion policies, to permit same-sex marriages and to end compulsory religious education in public schools.

The Holy Father reasserted the importance of his earlier message to the newly-elected government, then expressed to Rodríguez Zapatero his desire that the Spanish government, elected March 13, «achieve the established objectives to foment the modern development of Spain, and that in this task due consideration be given to ethical values, so rooted in the religious and cultural tradition of the population.»

«Know that you can count on the collaboration of the Holy See to work united in the great cause of peace and in favor of the spiritual progress of peoples; to assist in what refers to the eradication of terrorism and violence in all its forms; to obtain the greatest satisfaction of the legitimate needs of the human person, with his dignity, rights and liberties,» the Pope said.

John Paul II said he prays that Spain will always aim for «integral progress, and that the peaceful coexistence in unity among persons and peoples of that great land will be fortified in it, with the wonderful and varied diversity that constitute it, and that moral and cultural values will be preserved, as well as its Christian roots.»

Rodríguez Zapatero, who described the audience as «very cordial,» said after the meeting that he sought to «maintain a relationship of openness and dialogue with the Vatican, with the Spanish bishops’ conference, and with the Catholic Church in general,» in the framework of the agreements signed with the Holy See 25 years ago.

After the audience, the prime minister and members of his delegation met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, and with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

«In the course of the conversation a review was made of the principal issues of bilateral relations in the light of the agreements between the Holy See and Spain, in particular those of 1979, and the desire for dialogue and collaboration was reaffirmed,» a statement by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls confirmed.

«There was, moreover, an exchange of points of view on the international situation, with special attention to the European perspective and the countries of Latin America,» Navarro Valls added.

During his meeting with journalists, Rodríguez Zapatero revealed that in these meetings there was reflection on the future of the European Union, and evidence of a «shared will that the project should go forward.» Also discussed was the situation in the Middle East, but not Iraq, he said.

At the audience Rodriguez Zapatero was unable to shake the Pope’s hand as his own right hand was bandaged because of an injury he suffered Sunday playing basketball. At the end of the audience, John Paul II turned to the Spanish delegation and with a smile told them that they have «a very young prime minister and that is good.»

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