.- This morning Pope Benedict XVI received civic leaders of the areas surrounding the Vatican City State for their traditional exchange of New Year greetings. The Holy Father told Piero Marrazzo, president of the Region of Lazio, Italy; Walter Veltroni, mayor of the City of Rome; and Enrico Gasbarra, president of the Province of Rome, along with their assistants, that there is an urgent need for national and regional government officials to enact policies to protect and serve the family.
The Pope began his address by expressing his satisfaction at the long-standing collaboration between their administrations and ecclesial bodies; a collaboration that aims "to alleviate the many forms of poverty - economic poverty, but also poverty in terms of human relationships - that afflict a considerable number of individuals and families, especially among immigrants."
On the subject of healthcare, Benedict XVI stressed the fact that "the Church and Catholic organizations are happy to offer their help, in the light of the great principles of the sacredness of human life from conception to natural end, and of the central importance of sick people." On this subject, he expressed his hope that the administrators would "favor a form of collaboration that brings definite benefits to the entire population."
Turning to the question of the family, the Pope said that the "intrinsic value and authentic motivations" of marriage and the family, "need today to be better understood. To this end, the Church's pastoral commitment is great and must grow further. But equally necessary are polices of the family and for the family," that translate into initiatives to help young couples form a family, have children and educate them. Such policies must involve "favoring the occupation of the young, containing as far as possible the cost of housing, and increasing the number of nursery schools and kindergartens.
"However," he added, "projects that aim to attribute to other forms of union inappropriate legal recognition appear dangerous and counterproductive," because they inevitably end up "weakening and destabilizing the legitimate family based on marriage."
After pointing out that "the education of new generations is the pastoral priority of the diocese of Rome," the Holy Father told his audience of his gratitude for the support "you give to certain forms of educational activity in the Church, in particular the oratories. I trust that, also in this field, we can further develop our fruitful collaboration, while respecting the nature and duties of each of the parties involved."