Youth employment, the common good, the migratory crisis, the family and “positive laicism” were among the topics addressed by Pope Francis in his address on Saturday, June 10, in the course of his visit to the Quirinale Palce in Rome, where he was received by the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella.
In his visit to return that of Mattarella to the Vatican on April 18, 2015, Francis paid tribute to “that peculiar form of [Italian] laicism calling it in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s word “positive” and describing it as “not hostile and conflictive but friendly and collaborative, although in the rigorous distinction of the competencies proper to the political institutions on one hand and the religious on the other.”
“I look at Italy with hope,” assured Francis. A hope that is “rooted in the grateful memory of parents and grandparents, who are also mine,” said the Argentine Pontiff, recalling that his roots are in Italy.
However, challenges are not lacking that Italy and “the whole of Europe,” must face, from international terrorism to the migratory phenomenon and the difficulty of young generations to access “stable and fitting work.” This “contributes to increase mistrust in the future and does not favor the birth of new families and children,” noted the Pontiff, who confirmed his appeal “to generate and accompany processes that give place to new opportunities of fitting work.” The new generations have the right to be able to walk towards important goals and to reach their destiny,” he stressed.
“I rejoice to highlight that Italy, through the active generosity of its citizens and the commitment of its institutions, and appealing to its abundant spiritual resources, is doing its utmost to transform these challenges into occasions of growth and new opportunities,” continued Francis, who recalled Italy’s commitment in the humanitarian field, particularly its reception of refugees and immigrants and, in the international ambit, its endeavors in favor of peace and security.
On his arrival, after the military honors and the playing of the national anthems, the Pope and Sergio Mattarella had a private conversation in the stained-glass study, which lasted about 20 minutes, before their addresses to the representatives of the highest State offices in the Hall of the Cuirassiers and the meeting, in the splendid and green gardens of the Quirinale, with some 200 children from the area in Central Italy affected by the earthquake.
“Dear boys and girls, thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for your song and for your courage,” said the Pope, whose off-the-cuff words were reported by the Holy See Press Office. Francis exhorted them to go on with courage, “always up, always up!”
“It’s an art to go up always,” explained the Pope, recalling a song of the Alpine troops.
During the visit, there was the usual exchange of gifts. The President of the Republic gave the Pontiff a cope clasp made by the “Noble College of the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths of Rome.” Instead, Pope Francis’ gift to Mattarella was an icon of the end of the 17th beginning of the 18th century, depicting the Apostles Peter and Paul, Holy Patrons of Rome.
On taking his leave from the Quirinale around 12:30 p.m., the Pope said to President Sergio Mattarella: “Pray for me and I will do so for you.” Then, he got into his blue Ford for the return trip to the Vatican.