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Pope stresses religious freedom during visit by Italian President Napolitano

Catholic World News - June 10, 2013

“In today's world, religious freedom is more often asserted than accomplished,” Pope Francis said as he greeted Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to the Vatican on June 8.

Napolitano, who was re-elected in April as Italian president, became the first head of state formally received on an official visit by Pope Francis. In his address to the Italian leader, the Pontiff said that he was grateful for the warm welcome he had received in Italy since becoming Roman Pontiff. He then added—in what seemed clearly a reference to Italy’s public debate about immigration—that he hoped the nation would remain “a welcoming home for all.”

Noting that 2013 is the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, the Pope devoted much of his talk to the issue of religious freedom. “The serious outrages inflicted on this primary right are a source of serious concern,” he said. Pope Francis also spoke about the continued worldwide economic crisis and its impact on Italy. He called attention to other problems including “the weakening of family and social ties, the decreasing population, the prevalence of mentalities favoring profit over work, and the insufficient attention paid to younger generations and their formation.”

In greeting Napolitano, however, the Pope also observed that their friendly relations confirm “even after troubled and painful events, the normalcy and excellence of relations between Italy and the Holy See.”

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