2006-10-19 14:59:53

Pope addresses a meeting in Verona on state of Church in Italy

(19 Oct. 2006) : Pope Benedict XVI travelled Thursday to Verona in northern Italy to address a meeting of the nation's bishops on the state of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy and celebrate an open-air Mass in the city's soccer stadium. After arriving on an Italian military plane, the local Church dignitaries welcomed the Pontiff. Thereafter, Pope Benedict was driven through Verona in a glass-encased popemobile. The bishops and lay people from across Italy have been attending a national church convention, the first since 1995 and only the fourth in the past 30 years.

In an hour-long speech to the nation's bishops and lay leaders on the state of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, Pope Benedict urged Italians to remain faithful to their Christian traditions, saying they can be examples for Europe and the world and enable real dialogue with other cultures that are deeply religious. The Pontiff warned of the secular drift in the West that he said has led to such threats to the traditional family as “other forms of unions,” a reference to gay marriage that the Church firmly opposes. But overall, he praised the health of the Church in Italy, saying “the Christian traditions are often deeply rooted and continue to produce fruit.” Pope Benedict has been pressing on the need for dialogue between religions and cultures, which he has said was the point of his speech in Germany last month that angered the Muslim world for its references to Islam and violence. He said that cultures in which “God is excluded,” referring to a secularized West, “were not able to establish a real dialogue with other cultures in which the religious dimension is strongly present.”

Pope Benedict received a standing ovation from the audience of several hundred at the Verona fairgrounds. While in the northern Italian city, Benedict was also to celebrate an open-air Mass in a soccer stadium. Prime Minister Romano Prodi headed a group of Italian dignitaries expected to greet the pope later in the day and attend the late-afternoon Mass.

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