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An act of extraordinary historic and human significance

· The President of Italy expresses on behalf of Italians a grateful and affectionate greeting to the Pontiff who is leave the Pontifical throne but not Rome ·

I renew to Benedict XVI  — in the concluding moment of his mandate  —  the grateful and affectionate greeting of Italians. I felt and feel able to do this on behalf of the people and the nation who have sincerely loved and accompanied with constant fondness and goodwill this non-Italian Pontiff. Even those farthest from the Church and from religious practice have appreciated the loftiness of Benedict XVI's research and contributions of thought, together with his simplicity and discretion. The years of his Pontificate were among the most serene in our country regarding the relations between the Church and State: a sign of mutual respect and will to collaborate. The social and public dimension — commonly recognized — of religion was in these years lived with the just sense of limits.

Last Saturday my personal farewell with Benedict XVI was marked by heartfelt emotion. Because, since my first State visit to the Vatican and then his, in return, to the Quirinale, a sense of affinity was established between us, this feeling pushed us to go beyond every formality. However I could never have foreseen the level of attention and confidence which our relationship and meetings reached.

Thus I was able to witness the suffering and pain of the difficult and bitter moments of the Church and the serene determination to confront the trials which he encountered.

We had the opportunity to experience a genuine mutual feeling of concern and viewpoints on the events of Europe and world. I am grateful for his esteem and trust which he showed me, so sensitive to the harmony in which he placed himself with my fundamental commitment for national unity. Benedict XVI leaves  — with this act of extraordinary historic and human significance  — the Pontifical throne, but not Rome. He is not straying from Italy. And we will continue to feel him close and to be close to him with a spirit of best wishes.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 20, 2019

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