At the beginning of every New Year, the Pope meets with government officials from Rome and its surrounding area to exchange greetings and discuss issues affecting the region. This year the focus of the Pontiff’s concern was on the education of youth, poverty and care for the sick.
Referring to the “educational emergency” he had highlighted last June during the ecclesial congress of the diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI noted how “it seems ever more difficult to convincingly present new generations with firm certainties and criteria upon which to build their lives.” Nonetheless, he told his audience, such an emergency “cannot leave the Church or your administrations indifferent.”
“What is clearly at stake in the formation of individuals”, the Pope added, “is the very basis of co-existence and the future of society. For its part, the diocese of Rome is dedicating its special attention to this difficult task” with initiatives that touch “the various educational fields, from families and schools to parishes, associations and movements”. He singled out the Region of Lazio for the support it has given to oratories and children's centers run by parishes and ecclesial communities.
Pope Benedict provided the officials with a path for civil institutions to form people in a way in accord with their dignity. These institutions must “increase their efforts at various levels in order to tackle the educational emergency, drawing constant inspiration from the guide-criterion of the centrality of the human person,” he said.
Above all, the Pope sees the family as standing at the center of this formation. "It is clear that respect and support for the family based on marriage have primary importance", he emphasized.
"Unfortunately, we daily see how unrelenting and threatening are the attacks and misunderstandings suffered by this fundamental human and social institution. It is, then, more necessary than ever that public administrations do not support such negative tendencies but, on the contrary, give the family their convinced and concrete support, in the certainty that in this way they are working for the common good".
The Holy Father identified poverty as "another worsening emergency situation, ... especially on the outskirts of major cities. ... The increased cost of living, and especially the price of accommodation, a persistent lack of work, and often inadequate salaries and pensions, make living conditions truly difficulty for many individuals and families", he observed.
Lastly, the Pope highlighted needs of the sick. “We are well aware”, he said, “of the serious difficulties the Region of Lazio has to face in the field of healthcare, but we must also note how the situation of Catholic healthcare structures is also often a dramatic one.”
Referring to attempts aimed at removing the Catholic institutions’ tax exempt status, The Holy Father said, “I must ask, then, that in the distribution of resources [Catholic structures] not be penalized, not for any interest of the Church, but in order to avoid prejudicing a service so indispensable to our people”.