Amidst the current passionate debate over the role of the Church in public life in Italy, the Italian Bishops conference is holding their general assembly. This comes as the head of the conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, takes the helm as Pope Benedict’s new appointee. Bagnasco has also been in the news because he received death threats for defending marriage and denouncing the immorality of practicing homosexuality.
The Holy Father gave his support to the bishops and the laity who recently asserted the right of the Church to speak in the public square. This action has produced in the Pope the, "conviction that in Italy the faith is alive and profoundly rooted, and that the Church is an organization of the people, a capillary network close to individuals and families. ... The Catholic faith and the presence of the Church remain the great unifying factor of this beloved nation and a precious reservoir of moral energies for the future."
A recent demonstration in support of the family organized in Rome "at the initiative of the Catholic lay faithful but attended by many non-Catholics," said the Holy Father, "certainly contributed to making everyone more aware of the significance and role of the family in society, ... in the face of a culture that deludes itself and favors happiness by a unilateral insistence on individual freedom."
Benedict was also eager to address the needs of the society that we live in. Apart from these "positive elements," Benedict XVI also noted "the difficulties and snares" which, he said, "can grow with the passage of time and of the generations." In this context, he warned against "a culture marked by moral relativism, poor in certainties and rich in demands, at times unjustified demands. We also feel the need to reinforce Christian formation through a more profound catechesis, and to this end the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be of great service.
According to Benedict, we must be constantly committed to, “place God always at the center of the lives of our communities, giving primacy to prayer, to personal friendship with Jesus and, hence, to the call to sanctity. In particular, great concern must be shown for vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life."
The Holy Father also offered words of wisdom for engaging a society that includes many faiths and beliefs. “Esteem and respect towards other religions and cultures, with the seeds of truth and goodness they contain, ... are especially necessary in our own times," said the Holy Father. "However, there must be no reduction in our awareness of the originality, fullness and unity of the revelation of the true God Who in Christ was definitively given us, nor can the Church's missionary vocation be diminished or weakened."
The Pope did not fail to encourage the bishops to continue their involvement in the public square for the good of all. "While fully and cordially respecting the distinction between Church and politics, between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, we cannot but concern ourselves with what is good for mankind," and specifically with "the common good of Italy."
The Holy Father concluded by exhorting the Church in Italy to continue her mission of bringing the Gospel and material help to those in need. Also of indispensable importance is the mission of forming the youth in the faith, since they are the future of the Church, he noted.