SAN MARINO, San Marino, JUNE 19, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is urging the political authorities of San Marino to conserve their Christian values, which he said are at the foundation of the republic's identity.

The Pope said this today at a meeting with government authorities, elected officials and the diplomatic corps at the Public Palace of San Marino, the independent enclave that is located in Central Italy.

According to tradition, San Marino is the world's oldest republic, founded by St. Marin, who sought refuge on Mount Titan (one of the seven mountains of present-day San Marino) fleeing the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian.

The republic is also one of the world's smallest, covering a territory of just over 24 square miles. Its population hovers around 30,000.

The Pope praised San Marino for its "attachment" to the "patrimony of values" the nation inherited from its first evangelizers.

"I exhort you," he continued, "to preserve and appreciate it, because it is at the foundation of your most profound identity, an identity that asks to be fully assumed by the people and institutions of San Marino."

A society built on Christian values, the Holy Father affirmed, is a society "that is attentive to the true good of the human person, to dignity and liberty, and capable of safeguarding the right of all peoples to live in peace."

"These are the foundations of a healthy laicism," he added, "within which civil institutions must act with a constant commitment to the defense of the common good."

Protecting life

<p>Benedict XVI stated that the Church recognized the legitimate autonomy of the civil government, but noted the Church's commitment to legislation that "promotes and protects human life from conception to its natural end."

"Moreover," he added, "it requests due recognition and active support for the family."

"It is important," he said, "to recognize that the family, just as God has constituted it, is the main institution that can foster harmonious growth and the maturity that makes individuals free and responsible, formed in deep and perennial values."

The Holy Father warned of losing San Marino's "loss of the Christian sense of life and of fundamental values," but noted that the republic's "many charitable and voluntary initiatives," as well as the "numerous San Marino missionaries, lay and religious, who in the last decades have left this land to take the Gospel of Christ to various parts of the world."

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