ROME, MARCH 9, 2009 ( Rome needs to rediscover its "soul" as the cradle of civilization so as to face modern challenges, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope proposed this today when he visited the headquarters of the city's civil authorities and was received by Mayor Gianni Alemanno.

"In the postmodern era, Rome must again appropriate her most profound soul, her civil and Christian roots, if she wishes to be the promoter of a new humanism that puts the question of man, recognized in his full reality, at the center," the Holy Father said.

He went on to stress the importance of rediscovering the "everlasting values" of man, especially in reference to God.

"The incidents of violence, deplored by all, manifest a profound unease; they are the sign -- I would say -- of a real spiritual poverty that afflicts the heart of contemporary man," the Pontiff suggested. "The elimination of God and his law as the condition for achieving man's happiness, has, in fact, not achieved its objective. On the contrary, it deprives man of spiritual certainties and of the hope necessary to face daily difficulties and challenges."

In face of the "disconcerting weakening of human and spiritual ideals," which once made Rome the "model" of civilization for the whole world, the Pope proposed collaboration with the Church, through parishes and educational institutions.

"Christianity is the bearer of a luminous message about the truth of man, and the Church, the keeper of this message, is conscious of her own responsibility toward contemporary culture," he affirmed.

Hard times

Benedict XVI went on to affirm his special closeness to those most affected by the economic crisis, and assured them of the "closeness of the Church" through its aid organizations.

"The Christian community, through parishes and charitable structures, is already committed in the daily support of many families that are unable to maintain a dignified level of life," he noted.

The Bishop of Rome proposed "the values of solidarity and generosity, which are rooted in the hearts of Romans," supported "by the light of the Gospel, so that all will take charge again of the needs of the neediest, feeling that they are participants in only one family."

"In fact, the more a consciousness matures in each citizen of feeling personally responsible for the life and future of the inhabitants of our city, the more confidence will grow in the ability to surmount the difficulties of the present moment," he declared.

The Holy Father also highlighted the hospitable character of Rome, as well as the social changes of the last decades, which have made her a "multi-ethnic and multi-religious metropolis in which integration will be, perhaps, complex and painful."

The Pope encouraged going back to Rome's roots, shaped by ancient law and the Christian faith, saying that thus the city will be able to find the strength to bring out respect for the norms of civil coexistence and the rejection of all forms of intolerance and discrimination.

Child of Rome

After his address to the civil authorities, Benedict XVI spoke to the thousands of Romans who had gathered outside to welcome him.

"Living in Rome for so many years, I am now somewhat of a Roman, but I feel more Roman as your bishop," he said affectionately.

Rome "is beautiful because of the vestiges of her antiquity, her cultural institutions and the monuments that recount her history, her churches and her many masterpieces of art," the Holy Father continued. "But Rome is beautiful above all because of the generosity and holiness of so many of her children, who have left eloquent traces of their passion for the beauty of God."

After mentioning some important Roman saints, the Pope pointed out that their example "shows that when a person encounters Christ, he is not enclosed in himself, but is open to the needs of others and, in every realm of society, puts the good of all before his own interests."

"There is real need of such men and women also in our time," he affirmed, "because not a few families, not a few young people and adults are living through precarious, perhaps even dramatic, situations: situations that can only be surmounted by being united, as the history of Rome also teaches, which has known so many other difficult moments."