Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his first official visit to the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, at the Quirinale Palace.
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With heartfelt gratitude I return today the cordial visit that you made to me last June 8 in the Vatican. I thank you for the courteous expressions of welcome with which you received me, making yourself the interpreter of the Italian people.
In the institutional custom of relations between Italy and the Holy See, this visit confirms the excellent state of the reciprocal relations, and even intends first to express a sign of friendship. In fact, already in these first eight months of my Petrine service I have been able to experience from your part, Mr. President, so many gestures of attention. They are added to the many that you have progressively manifested, during your first seven years, in meetings with my predecessor Benedict XVI. To him I wish to address at this moment our thoughts and our affection, in memory of his visit to the Quirinale, which on that occasion he described as “symbolic home of all Italians” (Address of October 4, 2008).
Visiting you in this place so charged with symbols and history, I would like to knock on the doors of each inhabitant of the country, where the roots of my earthly family lie, and offer the word of the Gospel, healing and always new, to all.
Thinking again of the salient moments in the relations between the Italian State and the Holy See, I would like to recall the insertion in the Republican Constitution of the Lateran Pacts and the Agreement of Revision of the Concordat, of which Agreement will be observed in a few weeks its thirtieth anniversary. We have here the solid framework of normative reference for the serene unfolding of relations between the State and Church in Italy, a framework that reflects and sustains the daily collaboration at the service of the human person in view of the common good, in the distinction of the respective role and realms of action.
There are so many questions in the face of which our concerns are common and the answers can be convergent. The present moment is marked by the economic crisis that calls to be overcome and that, among the most painful effects, is that of an insufficient availability of work. It is necessary to multiply the efforts to alleviate the consequences and to gather and strengthen every sign of recovery.
The primary task awaiting the Church is that of witnessing the mercy of God and of encouraging generous answers of solidarity to open to a future of hope because, where hope grows, energies and commitment are also multiplied for the construction of a social and civil order that is more human and just, and new potentialities emerge for a sustainable and healthy development.
Impressed on my mind are the first pastoral visits that I made in Italy. To Lampedusa, first of all, where I saw up close the suffering of those that, because of wars or poverty, have taken to emigration in conditions that are often desperate; and where I saw the praiseworthy testimony of solidarity of so many who give themselves to the work of welcome. I remember, then, the visit to Cagliari, to pray before the Madonna of Bonaria; and that to Assisi, to venerate the Saint who is patron of Italy and whose name I have taken. In these places also I touched with my hand the wounds that afflict so many people today.
At the center of the hopes and social difficulties is the family. With renewed conviction, the Church continues to foster the commitment of all, individuals and institutions, in support of the family, which is the primary place in which the human being is formed and grows, in which values are learned and the examples that render them credible. The family is in need of stability and recognition of reciprocal bonds, to display fully its irreplaceable task and carry out its mission. While it puts its energies at the disposition of society, it asks to be appreciated, valued and protected.
Mr. President, in this circumstance I am pleased to formulate the hope, supported by prayer, that Italy, drawing from its rich patrimony of civil and spiritual values, will be able to find again the creativity and the concord necessary for its harmonious development, to promote the common good and the dignity of every person, and to offer in the international context its contribution for peace and justice.
Finally, I am particularly pleased to associate myself to the esteem and affection that the Italian people have for your person and to renew to you my most cordial wishes for the fulfillment of the duties proper to your very high office. May God protect Italy and all its inhabitants.[Translation by ZENIT]