.- Receiving a group of bishops from the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Pope Benedict XVI voiced his energetic support for the efforts of the Italian bishops to defend life, especially in regards to an upcoming referendum on assisted reproduction.
“The relationship between Italy and the Christian faith is today profound and alive. Certainly that form of culture, which is based on purely functional rationality and which contradicts and tends to exclude Christianity and the religions and moral traditions of humanity in general, is present and operative in Italy just as in all of Europe,” the Pontiff noted.
Nevertheless, he added, in Italy, “the Church maintains a primary presence among peoples of all ages and conditions, and therefore in the most diverse situations she can propose the message of salvation that the Lord has entrusted to her.”
The Holy Father spoke extensively about the centrality of the Eucharist, “the soul and secret energy of the Church, the source of efficacy for our apostolates.”
But later he noted that “a central question that demands our greatest pastoral attention is that of the family. In Italy, and even more so than in other countries, the family truly represents the fundamental cell of society and is profoundly rooted in the hearts of young generations, and it takes on multiple problems, offering support and remedies to equally different situations.”
Nevertheless, Pope Benedict observed that “even so, in Italy as well the family is exposed, in the current cultural climate, to many risks and threats of which we are all aware.”
“As the bishops of Italy,” the Holy Father added, “you have united your voices to that of John Paul II, especially in defending the holiness of human life and the value of the institution of marriage, as well as in promoting the roll of the family in the Church and in society, calling for economic and legal measures that sustain young families in the generation and education of their children.”
The Pope later expressed his support for the Italian bishops regarding “the imminent referendum on the assisted procreation law: because of your clarity and firmness, your commitment is a sign of pastoral solicitude for each human being, who can never be reduced to a means, but is always an end, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches in his Gospel and as human reason itself tells us.”
The bishops of Italy have advised voters to abstain from participating in the referendum that would legalize assisted reproduction. The Pope told them, “I am close to you in word and in prayer, trusting in the light and grace of the Spirit who works in consciences and hearts.”