This morning, Pope Francis made his first official visit to the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale Palace in Rome.
The Holy Father was accompanied by several prelates, including Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, and Archbishop Adriano Bernardini, Apostolic Nuncio to Italy.
The Pope also met with several leading members of the Italian government, who shortly after met with the Vatican delegation while the Holy Father and President Napolitano spoke in private.
After their private meeting, Pope Francis presented the Italian Head of State with a gift: two bronze statues from Italian artist Guido Veroi. One of the statues depicted St. Martin of Tours, who once served as a Roman soldier, cutting his cloak to share with a beggar.
In his address to the Italian President, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude to President Napolitano for his “gestures of attention” during his pontificate as well as that of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“Already in these first eight months of my petrine service I have been able to experience from you, Mr. President, many gestures of attention,” the Pope said. “They are added to the many [gestures] that you have progressively manifested, during your first seven years, towards my predecessor Benedict XVI. To him, I wish to address in this time our thoughts and affection, recalling his visit to the Quirinale, where in that occasion he described as “the symbolic home of all Italians.”
“Paying a visit to this place, so rich in symbols and history, ideally I would like to knock on the doors of each inhabitant of the country, when the roots of my earthly family lie, and offer the word of the Gospel, healing and always new, to all.”
Commenting on several important moments in the history of the Holy See and the Italian State, including the Lateran Pacts and the Revision of the Concordat, the Holy Father stated that such legislative frameworks the collaboration between the two in service of the common good.
Among the common matters that the Holy Father said are most urgent are the current economic crisis in Italy and the difficulties faced by many due to lack of employment.”It is necessary to multiply efforts to alleviate the consequences of the crisis and to seize and strengthen any sign of recovery,” he said.
“The main task of the Church is to bear witness to God’s mercy and to encourage a generous response of solidarity to open up a future of hope; because where hope grows, there is an increase in energy and commitment to the construction of a more human and just social and civil order, and new potential emerges for healthy and sustainable development.”
Recalling his pastoral visits to Lampedusa, Cagliari and Assisi, the Pope stated that he “touched with my hands the wounds that afflict many people.” Highlighting the importance of the family, the Holy Father stressed the important work of all to help support families where all human beings are formed.
“The family needs the stability and recognition of mutual bonds in order to carry out fully its unique role and to achieve its mission. While the family makes its energies available to society, it asks in return to be appreciated, valued and protected,” the Pope said.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis expressed his hope that Italy will find once again its creativity and consensus for the “harmonious” development of the country, while promoting the common good and dignity of every person.
Prior to leaving the palace, the Holy Father met with employees of the Quirinale Palace, many of whom he noted, are aware of the problems faced by the society and families of Italy. The Pope encouraged them to treat people with a “spirit of welcome and understanding” while urging them to “not be discouraged by difficulties, but to be ready to support each other.” (J.A.E.)