Pope Francis' Address to Italian President Sergio Mattarella

«The history of Italy shows clearly how great the contribution of Christianity is to its culture and to the character of its population»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address to the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella at the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

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Mr. President,

I am grateful to you for your visit, which you carry out only two months after the Representatives of the Italian people elected you to the highest office of the State. Such a gesture manifests the excellent relations between the Holy See and Italy and is in continuity with the visits effected by your immediate Predecessor and with a now long tradition that, in particular since the conciliar period, sees increased the occasions of encounter between the Italian supreme civil authorities and those of the universal Church.

The Lateran Pacts, absorbed by the Republican Constitutional Charter and the Revision Agreement of the same have offered a solid frame of reference, within which relations between Italy and the Holy See have been peacefully developed and reinforced, guaranteeing reciprocal sovereignty and independence and at the same time a mutual orientation to active collaboration on the basis of shared values and in view of the common good.

In fact, it is fundamental that, in the distinction of roles and of competencies and in full respect of the reciprocal functions, the need always be felt of a renewed collaboration, geared to joining forces for the good of all the citizens, who have the right to such concord, from which innumerable benefits derive.

The Church offers all the beauty of the Gospel and her message of salvation and, to carry out her spiritual mission, she is in need of conditions of peace and tranquility, which only the public powers can promote,

On the other hand, the latter, to whom it corresponds primarily to predispose the conditions for a fair and sustainable development so that civil society displays all its potentialities, find in the commitment and in the loyal collaboration of the Church a valid and useful support for their action. The reciprocal autonomy in fact will not lessen but exalt the common responsibility for the concrete human being and for the spiritual and material needs of the community, which we all have the task to serve with humility and dedication.

From this stems the fact that a healthy pluralism will not close itself to the specific contribution offered by the various ideal and religious components that make up the society, on condition that naturally they take up the fundamental principles that preside over civil life and do not instrumentalize or distort their beliefs for violent and abusive ends. In other words, the ordered development of a pluralistic civil society postulates that one not pretend to confine the authentic religious spirit only to the intimacy of the conscience, but that its significant role also be recognized in the building of society, legitimizing the valid contribution that it can offer.

The history of Italy shows clearly how great the contribution of Christianity is to its culture and to the character of its population, how much the Christian faith has permeated art, architecture and the customs of the country. The faith has transformed itself into works and these into institutions, to the point of giving a face to a peculiar history and to mold almost all the aspects of life, beginning with the family, first and indispensable bulwark of solidarity and school of values, which is helped to carry out its irreplaceable social function as the fundamental place of the person’s growth.

Mister President, among the different necessary goods for the development of every collectivity, work is distinguished for its connection with the very dignity of persons, with the possibility of building a fitting and free existence. In a special way, the lack of work for young people becomes a cry of pain that challenges the public powers, the intermediate organizations, the private entrepreneurs and the ecclesial community, so that every effort is made to remedy it, giving to the solution of this problem the just priority. In fact, in the availability of work resides the same availability of dignity and of a future.

Indispensable for an ordered growth of the society is that, through work, young generations have the possibility to plan their future with serenity, liberating them from precariousness and the risk of yielding to deceitful and dangerous temptations. Therefore, all those who hold positions of special responsibility have the primary task to address this problem with courage, creativity and generosity.

Another ambit that today calls for particular attention on the part of all is the care of the environment. To try to alleviate the growing imbalances and pollution, which sometimes cause right and proper environmental disasters, it is necessary to acquire full awareness of the effects of our behavior on creation, which are closely connected to the way in which man considers and treats himself (Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, 51).

In a few days the Universal Exposition will open at Milan, which has as theme: “Nourish the Planet. Energies for Life.” The Expo event will be an important occasion in which the most modern technologies will be presented that are necessary to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for all peoples, in respect of the environment. May it be able to contribute also to reflection on the causes of the environmental degradation, in order to to provide the competent authorities with a framework of knowledge and experiences indispensable to adopt effective decisions and to preserve the health of the planet that God has entrusted to the care of the human race.

Finally, I wish to express my gratitude for the commitment that Italy is deepening to receive the numerous migrants that, at the risk of their life, ask for hospitality. It is evident that the proportions of the phenomenon require more ample involvement. We must not tire in soliciting a more extensive commitment at the European and international level.

Mister President, in formulating my most cordial best wishes for the fulfilment of your high task, I hope that Italy, making a treasure of its noble traditions and of its culture largely inspired by the Christian faith, will be able to progress and prosper in concord, offering its precious contribution to peace and justice in the world.

May God protect Italy and each one of its inhabitants.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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