The Holy See’s Press Office has expressed amazement at how Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with the mayor of Rome and other regional government officials yesterday is being used for political gain.
As he does every year, the Pontiff offered his insights on how the lives of Romans and those living in the Italian region of Lazio can be improved. However, these remarks were reported in the press as a “thorough dressing down” of the governing officials.
Political rivals of those currently in office seized on the Pope’s comments as an opportunity to gain political capital.
The Pope's warning is "right, though poverty and degradation don't only affect Rome, but all Italian cities" said Minister of Social Solidarity, Paolo Ferrero, who appreciates the fact that every now and then "people make the invisible visible". Ferrero sees only one solution: "Increase social expenses for housing and a minimum starting income", according to AGI News.
The Vatican’s press office responded to these and other remarks by saying, "The political manipulation that has followed the words addressed by the Holy Father yesterday to representatives from the Region of Lazio, and the Province and City of Rome cannot but provoke amazement. It was certainly not the Pope's intention to undervalue the social work being carried out with praiseworthy dedication by the leaders of the City of Rome and of the Region.”
Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, thanked Pope Benedict for this explanation saying, "I would like to express my gratitude to the Holy Father for the words spoken this morning, which represent a recognition of the work and the great commitment over these years of the Council's administration, of other local institutions and of all those social services that have contributed to the growth of the city, to improving its quality of life without losing sight of the needs of its more vulnerable and less privileged citizens".
Veltroni added that his fellow politicians should view the Pope’s speech as “a further spur to our work” and that “Today the controversy caused by loathsome and instrumental political reactions to the Pope's speech can be laid to rest".