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The Church and Italy

Benedict XVI, bishop of Rome and primate of Italy wanted to pray with all of the bishops of the country – reciting the rosary in the oldest Marian basilica in the West – and speak to all of the Italian people, to emphasize once again the full participation of the Holy See in the 150th anniversary of the Nation’s political unity, a history which is linked to that of the Church of Rome in a very special way.

It is a participation which is first of all one of profound closeness. The media prevalently touched upon the social and political aspects of the relationship but instead it is one of witness to the presence of the Church as a constitutive element of the profound unity of the country; a unity well prior to the political one. The history of the papacy and the contribution of Catholics to the identity and to the unification of the nation are testament to this.

One thinks, to take a recent example, of the relationship established by John Paul II with the sanctuary of Loreto, a Marian and profoundly Italian place. One thinks also of the dramatic participation of Paul VI in the tragedy which killed Aldo Moro, with its vile and devastating political consequences. Finally, one could point to the fundamental contribution of Catholics in Italy: from preeminent political exponents to lay people involved in many different sectors, from teaching nuns to the many priests, not seldom heroic figures and saints, that have made up this country. Yes, the Pope is right when he repeats that Italy, politically united for a century and a half, “can be proud of the presence and activity of the Church.”

All this is in the background of the Pope’s speech. With his call to political forces to “cement national ties and overcome every type of prejudiced conflict,” with a vision of trust in the future: so that Catholic lay people participate in public life, so that the country breathes together from north to south, so that the Church works together with the State, with respect for the “legitimate secular nature of the State,” and at the same time attentive to supporting the rights of man. Those rights, especially, which protect the human person in all phases of life, and the family, a nucleus that has been so neglected but is so fundamental to society. In the reasonable conviction that faith, “is not alienation.” Precisely for this reason, Benedict XVI wanted to recite the rosary with the Italian bishops and in communion with all Catholic communities of the country. To “make space for God,” as Mary did, an image of every believer and of the Church.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 21, 2019

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