DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY October 21, 1998 vol. 9, no. 207
NEWS & VIEWS
POPE MAKES CUSTOMARY VISIT TO ITALIAN PRESIDENT
ROME (CWNews.com) - On Tuesday, Pope John Paul II made an official visit to the "Quirinal" -- the residence of the President of the Italian Republic (named after the Roman hill on which it is built). The pope met President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro as well as the new prime minister, the ex-Communist Massimo D'Alema and outgoing prime minister Romano Prodi.
The topic of the meeting was the collaboration between the Church and the State "for the promotion of man and the good of the country," as specified in the concordat of February 1984 and quoted by the Pope. He expressed his wish that the "harmony be confirmed" and even "intensified" for the preparation of the Great Jubilee in 2000. And within this framework, he launched a call for an authentic family policy and legislation which protects human life and the right of parents in education.
By tradition, the president of the Italian Republic makes an official visit to the Vatican after his election, a visit which the pope then returns to him. This arrangement is unique to the relationship between the Holy See and Italy. President Scalfaro visited the Vatican on November 22, 1992, and the Holy Father's return visit came as Scalfaro's seven-year term nears its end next spring.
The visit proceeded with great solemnity, the Pope being escorted from St. Peter's Square by an "extraordinary mission of the Italian government ," along with a military formation bearing trumpets. In an uncovered car which enables him to greet both Romans and pilgrims, the Pope went to the Quirinal with a large escort, including a horse guard awaiting him along the way.
In his speech, the Pope reaffirmed the existing link between family policy, the respect for the life and the "level of civilization" reached by society. "A healthy family can transmit the values on which rests any ordered coexistence, starting with the fundamental value of life, whose more or less great respect measures the degree of civilization reached by a people," he said. " A healthy family, a healthy country: one cannot be deceived into believing he may obtain one without being concerned with what is necessary for the other." The pope then asked for "clear and quick protection for all forms of human life, to overcome the wound of abortion and any form of legalization of euthanasia." He added, "In the vast context of the service of life, it is my wish that adequate legislative initiatives be expressed in the principles of freedom and of pluralism contained in the Italian Constitution, and in reference to the rights of parents to choose the educational model suitable to the cultural growth their children."
He continued on the topic of freedom of choice in education by referring to other European legislation favoring private schooling. "That [education model] comprises not only the guarantee of an real right to study, but also the possibility of choice of the type of preferred school, without discrimination and penalty as is already the case in the most of the countries of Europe."
Other concerns the Pope brought up during the meeting included unemployment, in particular that of young people; the situation of immigrants; victims of kidnapping and of violence.
The Holy Father avoided controversy when he met with ex-Communist Massimo D'Alema, to whom was entrusted the formation of a new Italian government two days ago. Last Sunday, the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano called D'Alema "a man from the apparatus of the former Italian Communist Party," recalling the political past of the new prime minister as secretary of the Federation of Communist Youths. Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said of the article, "Some are perhaps preoccupied in the Vatican by the innovation. But it is necessary to take account of the evolution of the left-wing parties in our country. The country has evolved with the creation of two wings supporting our political system: one social democrat, the other liberal democrat."
Giuseppe Lumia, a member of Parliament from Catholic Action, said, "It is normal for a small part of those representing L'Osservatore Romano and L'Avvenire [the official newspaper of the Italian Catholic bishops] to be opposed to the change. But another part, the majority, of the Catholic world has for years collaborated and lived with the left-center and found in this political area the possibility of expressing its own values."
The Pope shook the hand of the new prime minister for a lengthy period of time, but taking note of the political controversy, did not voice a sentence, present in his written speech: "I keep in mind the uneasy times that Italy is living in."
The Pope had already twice visited the Quirinal, following
the visit of President Sandro Pertini to the Vatican in May
1984 and after President Francesco Cossiga went to the
Vatican in October 1985. This is the seventh time that a
pope has gone to the Quirinal, since the Quirinal ceased
being a papal residence, in 1870, after the capture of Rome
by the Republicans and King Victor Emmanuel II: Pius XII
went in 1939 to try to convince, in vain, Victor Emmanuel
III to not enter World War II; John XXIII, in 1963, for the
Balzan Prize for Peace; Paul VI, in 1964 and 1966, to
officially thank Italy for having supported the unfolding
of the Second Vatican Council.
Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
NEWS & VIEWS