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Church plays a special role in Italy, Pope says

Catholic World News - March 16, 2011

The Italian people have “always had a sense of the duty, but at the same time the unique privilege,” of playing host to the Holy See, the center of Catholic life, Pope Benedict XVI has observed.

The Pope reflected on Church-state relations in a message to Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, timed for the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, met with Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace on March 16 to convey the Pope’s message. (The anniversary of Italian unification is celebrated on March 17.)

In his message the Pope acknowledged that the rise of the Italian republic was marked by conflicts with the Vatican. However, he said, “no conflict took place in society, which was marked by a profound friendship between the civil and ecclesial communities.” In fact, he said, the “national identity of the Italians, so strongly rooted in Catholic traditions,” was an important factor in achieving Italian unity.

Since the Lateran Accords that established a sound new foundation for Church-state relations, the Pope said, Italy’s political system has shown a “healthy secularism" that maintains a neutral but respectful attitude toward the faith. The two defining characteristics of that approach, he said, are “the separation of spheres and collaboration.”

The Pope’s message emphasized the contributions that the Church has made to Italian society over the centuries, including the development of educational institutions and health-care systems, the “vast artistic activity,” and the lasting public influence of great saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena.

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  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Mar. 16, 2011 9:14 PM ET USA

    Is secularism ever really healthy? Secularism doesn't see man as having his highest end in heaven at all and in many cases puts barriers for him to get there by reducing religious belief to a private affair with no bearing on public policy, education, etc. I would love to see the return of an authentic Catholic State where both the Church and the State worked in harmony to lead men to heaven.

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