Nuncio: Pontiff Wants to Visit Portugal Soon

Church and Nation Negotiating Concordat Laws

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LISBON, Portugal, FEB. 11, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is wanting to visit Portugal soon, affirmed the new apostolic nuncio of the country.

Archbishop Rino Passigato, appointed nuncio last November, stated this today in an interview with the Ecclesia program on Portuguese public television.

The prelate spoke about his audience with the Pope a little over a month ago, before his transfer to Portugal to replace Archbishop Alfio Rapisarda, who resigned for reasons of age on Sept. 2.

Archbishop Passigato said: “When I was received by the Holy Father before coming here, he told me, ‘I hope to be able to go to Portugal in the near future.’

“Although dates were not spoken of, Benedict XVI wants to be ‘in the land of Santa Maria,’ in the near future.”

It is, he added, “a strong desire, a proposal of the Holy Father himself.”

Concordat negotiations
The new nuncio arrives at a time in which the Holy See and Portugal are negotiating the regulations specifying the provisions of the concordat signed between both states in 2004.
The archbishop affirmed that this concordat “represents a very important point of arrival and agreement,” and this spirit continues in the joint committee that is working to translate the content of the bilateral agreement into laws and decrees.

The concordat replaced a 64-year-old agreement with updates that reflect changes in Portuguese national life. It regulates such important questions as marriage, religious service, and the patrimony and fiscal governance of the Church.

The nuncio said that it is necessary to “value the presence of Catholics in society” because “from a sociological perspective, Catholics represent 80.8% of the population.” He added, “It is a reality that must be expressed in all circumstances, in all situations: in schools, hospitals, the military — it is a reality!”

At the end of the interview, the prelate spoke of the strong Marian identity of the Portuguese faith, thanks to their devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

He concluded: “We have a promise from Our Lady of Fatima, which assures [us] that her heart will triumph and that Portugal will remain Catholic, believing, Christian.

“If Christians in Portugal keep their love for Our Lady strong, I believe that it will also keep their faith alive, which will bring them directly to Jesus.”

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