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The Holy Father Francis’ Message on Occasion of Celebrations of 150 Years of Rome Capital

‘We celebrate the 150 years of Rome Capital, long and significant history’

Pope Francis on February 3, 2020, sent a message on the occasion of the celebrations of the 150 years of Rome Capital, was read by H. E. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, at the Opera Theater of Rome.

“We celebrate the 150 years of Rome Capital, long and significant history. Often the forgetting of history is accompanied with little hope of a better tomorrow and resignation in building it,” the Pope said in his message. “To assume the memory of the past drives us to live a common future. Rome will have a future if we share the vision of a fraternal, inclusive city open to the world.”

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The Holy Father’s Message, Provided by the Vatican

Gentlemen and Ladies,

As Bishop of Rome, I’m happy to unite myself to the opening of the celebrations of the 150 years of Rome Capital that, by the initiative of the Mayor of Rome, The Honourable Virginia Raggi, begins today in the presence of the President of the Republic.  Recalling the event of Rome Capital, on the eve of Vatican Council II, Cardinal Montini said: “It looked like a collapse, and for the pontifical territorial domain it was [. . . ] However, Providence — now we see it well –, had arranged things differently, almost playing dramatically in the events.”[1] The proclamation of Rome Capital was a providential event, which then aroused controversies and problems. However, Rome, Italy and the Church herself changed: a new story was beginning.

Rome has grown and changed so much in 150 years: “from a homogeneous human environment to a multi-ethnic community, in which next to the Catholic vision, visions of life coexist inspired in other religious creeds and also non-religious concepts of existence” (Saint John Paul II, Address in Campidoglio, January 15, 1998: Insegnamenti XXI, 1 [1998], 115). In this matter, the Church shared the joys and sorrows of the Romans. I would like to recall, almost in an exemplifying way, at least three moments of this rich common history.

My thought goes to the nine months of Nazi occupation of the city, between 1943 and 1944, marked by so many sorrows. Unfolding from October 1943 was the terrible hunt to deport the Jews. It was the Shoah lived in Rome. The Church was a place of asylum for the persecuted: old barriers and painful distances fell. Of those difficult times we draw first of all the lesson of the undying fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Jewish Community, confirmed by me in the visit to the Major Temple of Rome. Moreover, we are also convinced, with humility, that the Church represents a resource of humanity in the city. And Catholics are called to live with passion and responsibility the life of Rome, especially in its most painful aspects

In the second place, I would like to recall the years of Vatican Council II, from 1962 to 1965, when the city welcomed the Conciliar Fathers, Ecumenical Observers, and so many others. Rome shone as a universal, Catholic, ecumenical place. It became a universal city of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, of peace. Seen was how much the city signifies for the Church and for the entire world. Because, as the German scholar Theodor Mommsen recalled in the late 19th century: “one is not in Rome without having cosmopolitan intentions.”[2]

The third moment I would like to recall is typically diocesan, but it touched the city: the so-called congress on the “evils of Rome,” of February 1974, desired by the then Cardinal Vicar Ugo Poletti. The expectations of the poor and of the peripheries were listened to in participatory people’s assemblies.  Addressed there was universality but in the sense of inclusion of the peripheries. The city must be the home of all. It’s a responsibility also today: today’s peripheries are marked by too much misery, inhabited by great loneliness and poor social networks. There is a question of inclusion written in the life of the poor and of the many immigrants and refugees, who see Rome as a landing of salvation. Incredibly, often their eyes see the city with more expectation and hope than us Romans that, because of the many daily problems, look at it pessimistically, almost as if destined to decadence. No, Rome is a great resource of humanity! “Rome is a city of unique beauty” (Celebration of the First Vespers of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, December 31, 2013: Insegnamenti I, 2 [2013], 804. Rome can and must renew itself in the twofold sense of openness to the world and inclusion of all. The Jubilees also stimulate it to this and that of 2025 isn’t far now.  We can’t live in Rome with our “head bowed,” each one in his circuits and commitments. In this anniversary of Rome Capital, we are in need of a common vision. Rome will live its universal vocation only if it becomes increasingly a fraternal city. Yes, a fraternal city! John Paul II, who loved Rome so much, often quoted a Polish poet: “If you say Rome, it answers you, Love.” It’s that love that does not let one live for oneself, but for others and with others. We are in need of coming together around a vision of a fraternal and universal city, which is a dream proposed to the young generations. Such a vision is written in Rome’s chromosomes. At the end of his pontificate, Saint Paul VI said: “Rome is unity, and not only of the Italian people but heir of the ideal typical of civilization as such and still as center of the Catholic Church, that is, universal” (Angelus, July 9, 1978: Insegnamenti XVI [1978], 541). Rome will be promoter of unity and peace in the world when it is able to build itself as a fraternal city.

We celebrate the 150 years of Rome Capital, long and significant history. Often the forgetting of history is accompanied with little hope of a better tomorrow and resignation in building it. To assume the memory of the past drives us to live a common future. Rome will have a future if we share the vision of a fraternal, inclusive city open to the world. In the international scene, charged with conflicts, Rome can be a city of encounter: ”Rome speaks to the world of fraternity, concord, and peace,” said Paul VI (Ibid.). With such sentiments and hopes, I express fervid good wishes for the city’s future and that of its inhabitants.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, February 3, 2020

FRANCIS

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

[1] “Studi Romani,” Year X, September-October 1962, n.5, 502-505.

[2] Q. Sella, Parliamentary Addresses Collected and Published by Deliberation of the Chamber of Deputies, Vol. I, Rome, 1887, 292.

 

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