VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Acknowledging that “Italy has really become my second homeland,” John Paul II thanked the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the initiatives it organized around the world for his 25th anniversary as Pope.
“With the wealth of its artistic and spiritual genius,” Italy has been a “protagonist in evangelization,” the Holy Father wrote in a message of gratitude read last Friday in Villa Madama by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The Pope expressed the hope that Italy “will continue the mission entrusted to it by God in the consensus of peoples.”
“May Italians, remaining faithful to the patrimony of Christian values inherited in these 2000 years, contribute to the realization of a new era of peace in the millennium that has just begun,” he said.
John Paul II recalled in his message how in these 25 years he has “had the possibility of a profound contact with the rich cultural tradition of the Italian people,” and he thanks Italy for its “great contribution” to “evangelization, through the testimony of numerous men and women saints, of famous artists, of many scientists and men of culture.”
In his address for the occasion, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s vicar for Rome and president of the Italian bishops’ conference, recalled how over these years John Paul II has appealed to the Church in Italy to be a social force and to give strong impetus to the new evangelization.
Cardinal Ruini added that the greatest gift the Holy Father has given Italy is “to make our country more missionary,” not only toward peoples yet to be evangelized, but also “toward Italians themselves who have lost the faith or are affected by the secularism that is also present here.”
Among others attending the homage to the Holy Father were Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; and Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.