Pope's message for 150th anniversary of Italian Unification

The Vatican has sent a  message from the Holy Father to Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Italian Republic, for the 150th anniversary of the political unity of Italy.

In the message, which Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone SDB delivered to President Napolitano during a visit to the Quirinal Palace yesterday, Benedict XVI highlights Christianity's contribution to building Italian identity "through the efforts of the Church and of her educational and care institutions, which established rules of behaviour, institutional structures and social relationships; but also through her vast artistic activity". He also mentions the influence of such saints as Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena.

"For complex historical, cultural and political reasons, the Italian 'Risorgimento' has been seen as a movement against the Church, against Catholicism and sometimes even against religion in general", the Holy Father says. However he also mentions the contribution to the formation of the unified State made by Catholic figures such as Gioberti, Rosmini and Manzoni.

Going on then to refer to the so-called "Roman Question" and "the divisive effects it had on the individual and collective conscience of Italian Catholics", Benedict XVI notes that "no conflict took place in society, which was marked by a profound friendship between the civil and ecclesial communities. The national identity of the Italians, so strongly rooted in Catholic traditions, constituted, in effect, the most solid foundation for the political unity that had been achieved".

"The fundamental contribution of Italian Catholics to the republican Constitution of 1947 is well known", Pope Benedict writes. "This was the starting point for the highly significant involvement of Italian Catholics in politics, ... and in civil society, offering their fundamental contribution to the growth of the country, demonstrating their absolute faithfulness to the State and dedication to the common good, and projecting
Italy towards Europe".

"For her part the Church, thanks also to the broad-ranging freedom she was guaranteed by the Lateran Pacts of 1929, has continued to make an effective
contribution to the common good through her institutions and activities. ... The conclusion of an agreement revising the Lateran Pacts, signed on 18 February 1984, marked the move to a new stage in relations between the Church and the State of Italy. ... The agreement, which contributed greatly to defining the healthy secularism that characterises the Italian State and its juridical system, highlighted two overriding principles which must regulate relations between the Church and the political community: the separation of spheres and collaboration. ... The Church is aware not only of the contribution she makes to civil society for the common good, but also of what she herself receives from civil society".

The Pope concludes:  "Contemplating the long course of history we must recognise that the Italian nation has always had a sense of the duty, but at the same time the unique privilege, arising from the fact that the See of Peter's Successor, and therefore the centre of Catholicism, is in Italy, in Rome. And the national community has always responded to this awareness by expressing is affectionate closeness, solidarity and assistance towards the Apostolic See, so as to foster its freedom and help create the conditions favourable for the exercise of spiritual ministry in the world by Peter's Successor, who is Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy".

Source: VIS

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