During his first official visit with the Italian President, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the legitimacy of a “a healthy laicism of the State, yet without excluding those ethical references whose ultimate foundations are to be found in religion.”
After receiving President Ciampi’s greeting at the Quirinal Palace, the Holy Father affirmed that "a healthy laicism of the State" is legitimate, "by virtue of which temporal situations are governed according to their own norms, yet without excluding those ethical references whose ultimate foundations are to be found in religion. The autonomy of the temporal sphere does not exclude an intimate harmony with higher and more complex necessities deriving from an integral vision of man and of his eternal destiny."
Regarding the diplomatic relation between the Vatican and the Italian State, the Pope recalled that the ties "are founded on the principle expressed during Vatican Council II, according to which 'the Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same people'."
The Pope’s address took place after a private meeting with Ciampi at the presidential residence. Former Italian presidents Francesco Cossiga and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro also attended the meeting, as well as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, was also present.
This was the eighth time a Pope has visited Quirinal Palace since 1929, when the Lateran Pact was signed there. The first visit was that of Pope Pius XII in 1939. Pope John Paul II visited the palace on three occasions back in 1984, 1986 and 1998.