VATICAN CITY, JAN 9, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, recalling Italy's rich patrimony of religious, spiritual and cultural values, as well as its spirit of altriuism and solidarity, both nationally and internationally, today welcomed Giuseppe Balboni Acqua, Italy's new ambassador to the Holy See, who presented his Letters of Credence to the Pope.
The Holy Father underlined "the millennia-old ties that link the See of Peter to the inhabitants of the peninsula, whose rich patrimony of Christian values is a vigorous source of inspiration and identity. The February 18, 1984 Accord asserts that the Italian Republic 'recognizes the value of religious culture', bearing in mind that 'the principles of Catholicism are part of the historical patrimony of the Italian people'."
"Italy, therefore," he pointed out, "has a special role to play in working so that Europe, through the competent authorities, recognizes its own Christian roots which are in a position to assure the citizens of the Continent an identity that is not ephemeral or merely based on political-economic interests, but rather on deep and everlasting values. The ethical foundations and ideals which were at the basis of efforts for European unity are even more necessary today if one wishes to offer stability to the institutional profile of the European Union.
"I wish to encourage the government and all Italian political representatives to pursue the efforts undertaken up to now in this field. May Italy continue to remind her sister nations of the extraordinary religious, cultural and civil heritage that has allowed Europe to be great throughout the centuries."
John Paul II then noted that 2004 marks two anniversaries in the relations between Italy and the Holy See: the 75th anniversary of the February 11, 1929 Lateran Pacts which created the sovereign Vatican City State, and the 20th anniversary of modifications in 1984 to this Pact. He said that whatever is missing or remains to be done, "the Church does not ask for privileges, nor does she intend to overstep the spiritual boundaries proper to her mission. The understandings born of the respectful dialogue (between Italy and the Holy See) have no end other than that of permitting the Church to undertake in full freedom her universal duty and to favor the spiritual good of the Italian people."
The Pope dedicated closing remarks to the "the cardinal role of the family, attacked as it is today, in the opinion of many, by a badly understood sense of rights. The Italian constitution calls for and cares for the centrality of this 'natural society based on marriage'. It is therefore the duty of governments to promote laws that favor its vitality. ... It is important that the State take care of the family, without ever suffocating the freedom of the educational choice of parents and sustaining them in their inalienable rights and in their efforts to consolidate the family nucleus."
CD/LETTERS CREDENCE/ITALY:ACQUA VIS 20040109 (490)