Pontiff Praises Work of Public Officials

Reminds Them of State’s Role at Service of Citizens

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is highlighting the great dignity of the work done by public officials, reminding them that public administration exists to serve citizens.

The Pope said this when he received in audience Friday a group of prefects of several regions of Italy, together with the Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni.

«The civil function is so eminent and distinguished as to have an almost ‘sacred’ character,» the Holy Father told them, «hence it calls for being exercised with great dignity and with a great sense of responsibility.»

The prefects’ patron saint is Ambrose, and the Bishop of Rome mentioned him in his address to the 200-some officials.

«The institution of the civil power derives so much from God that he who exercises it is also a minister of God,» he said, citing the saint.

Benedict XVI asked the Italian officials to remember that public administration, «as an instrument of the state, has the objective of serving the citizens.»

Citing the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, he indicated that the role of one who works in public administration is not «something impersonal or bureaucratic» but is an aid to citizens and should be «exercised with a spirit of service.»

The Pontiff acknowledged the difficulties and misunderstandings in their work, but encouraged them to stay courageous: «Be always prepared to treat the issues entrusted to you with a great sense of duty and with prudence, without contempt for the gift of truth and with the courage to defend the supreme goods.»

He also pointed out that Christian values «give new vigor and new splendor to the work of those involved in public life.»

In this connection, he stressed the «testimonies of the presence of Christianity that in the course of the centuries have fertilized Italian culture, inspiring a civilization rich in universal values.»

Civilization of love

Today’s audience was part of celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, and Benedict XVI pointed out the importance of the function of the prefects in this European state.

«You also, as high representatives of the state, are called, in the exercise of your responsibilities, to unite authority with professionalism, above all in times of tension and confrontations,» he said.

The Pontiff expressed his hope that St. Ambrose’s testimony would be for the prefects «stimulus and encouragement so that your work can be every day at the service of justice, peace, liberty and the common good.»

«God will not fail to second your efforts,» he said, «enriching them with abundant fruits for an ever more extensive and far-reaching civilization of love.»

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