.- On receiving the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador of Portugal to the Holy See, Joao Alberto Bacelar da Rocha Paris, this morning, Pope John Paul II took the opportunity to express his appreciation to the Potuguese government for "highlighting the Christian identity of Europe" in the new European constitution.
The Pope also expressed the desire that "the convictions that come from this [Christian] identity be affirmed in every national and international sphere."
"In this sense," he continued: "the signing of the new Concordat between the Holy See and Portugal is the great expression of a mature consensus to reinforce the presence of this Christian 'soul' founded on the 'deep historical relations between the Catholic Church and Portugal, according to mutual responsibilities that bind the parties, in the sphere of religious freedom in order to continue with its service to the common good and to collaborate in building up a society that promotes the dignity of the human person, justice and peace."
The Holy Father expressed his hope that Portugal will be a country that is "always open to the new challenges of our society and one that knows that the Almighty will not leave those who trust in His ways with empty hands."
Referring to challenges in modern society, the Holy Father emphasized that the "intensification of regional, cultural and economic differences, the desire to safeguard peace," natural disasters as well as "the disparity between rich and poor with the consequent lack of respect for human rights, are, among other things, a reason for great concern for every leader."
The Pope indicated that these challenges can be better presented to the public "if they are part of a project of development in which the vital forces in local society make up a substantial, unified effort. Associating citizens with projects in society and giving them confidence in government leaders and in their nation is the foundation for peaceful coexistence in societies."