VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Italian prime minister told Benedict XVI that the sacredness of life and family are priorities of the country’s government.
The Vatican press office announced that the Pope received in audience today Silvio Berlusconi, who was accompanied by Gianni Letta and Paolo Bonaiuti, undersecretaries of state to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
Berlusconi and Letta met privately with the Holy Father for 40 minutes.
“In the course of the cordial discussions various questions concerning the situation in Italy and the Catholic Church’s contribution to the life of the country were examined,” the Vatican reported.
The statement continued: “Attention also turned to certain matters associated with the implementation of the current agreements between the Holy See and Italy.
“Finally some aspects of the international situation were considered, such as the situation in the Middle East and the prospects for the spiritual, ethical and social development of the European continent.”
“The two sides reiterated their desire to continue their constructive collaboration at the bilateral level and in the context of the international community,” the text concluded.
Media reports say the meeting was cordial, with Berlusconi kissing Benedict XVI’s ring at the beginning of the encounter.
Upon greeting Letta, the Pope said, “I greet an old friend — young, but old.” Turning to Bonaiuti, the Holy Father said, “I meet him in person. I always see him on television.”
Berlusconi’s office said in a statement that the talks were “cordial,” and that they discussed the situation in Lebanon, the progress of the Middle East peace process, and relationships with Russia and China.
The statement added that particular attention was paid to the “food crisis,” which is the topic of a U.N.-sponsored food summit in Rome this week.
The prime minister’s office reported that Berlusconi also told the Holy Father that “the values of liberty and tolerance, and the sacredness of human life and the family,” are priorities of the Italian government.
After the meeting, Berlusconi met with the Pontiff’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
The last time the Pope and Berlusconi met at the Vatican was in November 2005.