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Pope: Church today working toward goals of St. Francis
John Thavis
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, April 2, 2009
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ROME (CNS)—On a state visit to Italy, Pope Benedict XVI said the state has no reason to fear the Church's contributions on social and moral issues.
Catholic pastors and lay leaders are working to build a more just society, and their involvement should be welcomed, especially at this time of economic uncertainty, the pope said Oct. 4, 2008.
The 81-year-old pontiff was welcomed at the Quirinal Palace of President Giorgio Napolitano, a complex in the heart of Rome that was a papal residence until 1870, when the Papal States were overthrown and Italy was united.
The pope touched on a perennially sensitive issue in Italy when he spoke about the proper church-state relationship.
Noting that the state visit took place on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy's patron saint,
The Church, he said, "does not aim at power, nor does it expect privileges or aspire to economic or social advantage."
The pope said the Italian church does have a legitimate voice in public affairs, particularly when it comes to promoting assistance to the poor, to young people in search of work and to families and the elderly who have given so much to the country.
"There is no reason to fear that the Church and its members will go too far and harm freedom, but they also expect recognition of their freedom not to betray their own consciences," he said.
Napolitano warmly welcomed the pope, who was escorted to the palace by a presidential motorcycle convoy. A band played the anthems of the Vatican and Italy, and the Vatican flag flew alongside that of Italy during the visit.
The pope also met with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the leading ministers of his center-right coalition government.

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