A Diplomat's View of a Papal Journey

Interview With Portuguese Ambassador to Holy See

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By Silvia Ghattas
ROME, MAY 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today begins his four-day trip to Portugal, where he will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the young shepherds who were visited by Our Lady at Fatima.

On the eve of his trip, ZENIT interviewed the Portuguese ambassador to the Holy See, João da Rocha Páris, who spoke of the importance of the visit for his country and government.
ZENIT: With what sentiments are preparations being made to welcome the Pope to Portugal?
Rocha Páris: For an ambassador, a visit to his country from the head of state to which he is accredited is always a motive of great pride and satisfaction. In general, these visits require great responsibility and represent the summit of a long and complex process of preparation, in which many factors must be brought together and, precisely for this reason, they always constitute a high moment of the mission entrusted to him.
The Pope’s visit to Portugal has a special meaning, considering the cordial and excellent relations of the Holy See with Portugal.
I think the Pope’s visit is one of the most important moments of my mission to the Holy See and I believe that, taking place in the context of the first of the two great annual pilgrimages to Fatima, it will have a very special impact for Portuguese Catholics, who always remember with great emotion and affection the very special bond that John Paul II had with that place of pilgrimage, and his special devotion to the Virgin of Fatima.
ZENIT: Will you be with the Pope during those days?
Rocha Páris: I hope to be able to be present at the ceremony to welcome Benedict XVI to Lisbon, in addition to accompanying him in the different moments that constitute the program of the visit, be it in the official part or the pastoral part.
ZENIT: How are the Christian roots of Portugal?
Rocha Páris: Portugal’s Christian roots are very ancient. It must be recalled that Pope Alexander III, in the bull «Manifesti Probatum,» recognized Portugal as an independent country in the year 1179 and that since then my country’s relations with the Holy See have always been intense. Relations that passed through different phases, but, if we examine the history, we come easily to the conclusion that they have been characterized above all by a fruitful integration, resulting in the important role that the Church had in the different sectors of Portuguese society, for example, in teaching and in charitable aid. I believe that many points of reference in education for a large number of Portuguese are based on many of the universal values of the Catholic religion.
ZENIT: How is the faith in your country?
Rocha Páris: Portugal is today a pluralist democracy and an open society, both at the political-cultural level, as well as the religious. As such, the country must comply with the obligation it has to respect human rights integrally and, in this realm, to give guarantees to all religions, including the Catholic, that is, the full liberty of worship and practice.
ZENIT: And how are relations between the Holy See and Portugal?
Rocha Páris: Relations between the Holy See and Portugal are characterized , as I said, by great cordiality. There is a concordat, revised and updated in 2004, which is applied in a framework of mutual respect and dialogue. All this enables me to say that there is no substantial difficulty. The relationship between Portugal and the Holy See will be reinforced with Benedict XVI’s visit to Portugal. Moreover, both the Holy See and Portugal share identical positions in regard to many problems that are the cause of debates in the international scene, as for example everything that has to do with the fundamental rights of man and nations.
ZENIT: Could you give us a judgment on Benedict XVI’s pontificate in a delicate moment?
Rocha Páris: I support the pontificate of His Holiness Benedict XVI with great admiration and respect, seeing in the Pope a very solid, courageous, determined and at the same time farsighted pastor. I am impressed by his enormous learning, his clarity and the consistency of his reasoning and, at the same time, his very great human and artistic sensitivity.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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