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Italy is permanently marked by Catholic heritage, Pope tells new ambassador

Catholic World News - December 17, 2010

Meeting on December 17 with a new ambassador from Italy to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI said that a proper appreciation of religious freedom and of Italy’s Christian heritage are essential to the health of the society.

The Pope reminded the new ambassador, Maria Grego, that Italy has struggled since its inception to arrive at “a just distinction between the civil and religious communities.” He added that when religion has been “denied, forgotten, or marginalized,” the result has been “dangerous imbalances and painful fractures in the social life of the country.”

In seeking to preserve a public voice, the Church is not asking for any special privileges from the state, but merely ensuring that religious freedom is honored, the Pope continued. “The correct exercise and reciprocal recognition of this right enables society to make use of the moral resources and generous service of believers.”

Pope Benedict cited a current debate, over the display of crucifixes in public buildings, as an example of the effort to drive religion out of the public sphere. He praised the Italian government for resisting that effort, “in accordance with a correct view of laicism, in the light of its own history, culture and traditions.”

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