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WELCOME SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC TO A DELEGATION OF SYNODAL FATHERS VISITING THE QUIRINAL PALACE



Here below is the complete text of the impromptu welcome speech by the Italian Head of State,
the Honorable Giorgio Napolitano during the visit to the Quirinal Palace by a delegation from the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops
Your Eminence Sandri, Blessed Monsignors,
I thank you profoundly for having wished to visit us, bearing witness to a very meaningful event: we might say, without exaggeration, to an event of historical importance, that is, the Synod for the Middle East. You wished to come to this Palace in which the Presidents of the Italian Republic are the most recent arrivals: we have been here, myself and my predecessors, for only sixty years, after it had been the Pope’s residence for nearly three centuries.
But I would also like to immediately say that I thank you for your “beautiful Italian”: I listened to Patriarch Naguib: I would not have been able to converse with you in Latin because the time when I studied it is too far in the past. This conversion from Latin to Italian is something that the President of the Republic deeply appreciates.
Your commitment, if I understood properly, is a commitment to renewal, of relaunching and enhancing the Catholic, and more generally, Christian, presence in the Middle East. And it is a commitment from which – I am convinced – great benefit may derive and provide an impulse to the cause of religious pluralism, the cause of dialogue, and the cause of peace in this tormented region. Naturally, without confusing political responsibility with the Churches’ responsibility, I believe there is something deeply shared, yet distinct, between the commitment of political authorities such as the Italian ones, and your commitment, above all for peace.
During the course of this last year or just slightly longer, I visited various countries of the region: I was in Jerusalem for a meeting with both Israeli authorities and Palestinian representatives, because we are always concerned about finding a long-overdue peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinian populations and representatives; Italy has always worked – and this has been a constant of Italian foreign policy, regardless of the succession of governments – in a spirit of friendship with Israel and, at the same time, in a spirit of authentic friendship with the Arab countries, to bring that conflict to an end so that a peaceful coexistence might finally be achieved, in mutual respect, of the State of Israel and of an independent, stable and prosperous Palestinian State.

We do not know if in this phase new paths are truly opening up, we earnestly hope they are: this is what our government, represented here by Undersecretary Craxi, who at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dedicates herself with special enthusiasm to the achievement of this great objective, is working for. We hope that this comes to pass, and that we may all truly make our contribution so that finally a way may be found to emerge from a situation that causes not only terrible suffering especially for the Palestinian populations, but also has the gravest impact on the entire regional framework of the Middle East, or – as we say now – the great Middle East. We know that the moment in which the question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is finally resolved – and resolved justly – it will be truly possible to overcome many other worrying tensions throughout the region as well.
You have spoken rightly, and more generally, of human rights: at one time, one said “the rights of man”, a questionable translation, because the rights of man are also the rights of the person – of man as well as woman – and this is one of the fundamental dimensions of the European Union’s commitment. I believe it is a commitment we must always hold in the absolutely highest regard, even when we are assailed by the present economic crisis and therefore attention is focused on the economy, and we study figures and diagrams and make predictions. But we can never forget that the European Union, and before that the European Community, was born as a community of values, and among these values human rights are a cornerstone that - I repeat - should always guide the action of the European Union even when its attention is so powerfully drawn elsewhere by other problems.
In the last year I also visited Lebanon and Syria, and certainly in these two countries conditions are better, also as regards the work of Catholics and Christians: there is greater pluralism, more respect and they really are an example that I believe should be extended to other states in that part of the world. The European Union too in developing its relationships with these countries must never overlook bringing up forcefully the problem of freedom of worship and, more generally, religious freedom, religious pluralism. In Damascus in fact I met representatives of all the confessions - I don’t know if some of you were there - and I remember that there were also representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities. I believe that effectively this great tradition of dialogue between the monotheistic religions that the Catholic Church pursues with great conviction - the present Pontiff takes a personal interest in this - is truly one of the fundamental paths to ensure what someone called, appropriately in my view, the reconciliation between civilizations.
Finally, to face up to such complex challenges, that are so difficult in this historical period, that also involve problems regarding the survival of the planet, and therefore themes of our shared destiny, I think that the possible reconciliation - which should be pursued actively - between civilizations is the major resource we have at our disposal to nourish our hope and pursue our ideals, our objectives.

[00110-02.08] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]




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