On January 9th, in the Vatican, the Pope received 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, each accompanied by an entourage, for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings.
As is customary during these annual meetings, the Holy Father remarked on a number of subjects of current concern that affect the lives of the inhabitants of Rome and Lazio.
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 convincingly to 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 then went on to express his thanks to the Region of Lazio for the support it has given to oratories and children's centres run by parishes and ecclesial communities.
The Holy Father called on civil institutions to "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.
"It is clear that respect and support for the family based on marriage have primary importance", he added. "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.
Going on to consider the problem of security and the degradation of some areas of Rome, Benedict XVI dwelt on the need for "constant and real efforts, with the dual and inseparable aims of guaranteeing the safety of citizens and ensuring that everyone (immigrants in particular) has at least the indispensable minimum for an honest and dignified life. The Church, through Caritas and many other forms of voluntary activity, … makes prodigious efforts also on this difficult front" which also requires "the intervention of the public authorities".
The Pope concluded by highlighting another area of shared concern for the Church and the public authorities: 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. … I must ask, then, that in the distribution of resources [Catholic structures] not be penalised, not for any interest of the Church, but in order to avoid prejudicing a service so indispensable to our people".