Says Division Between Caesar and God Is Fundamental
ROME,(Zenit.org).- Church-state separation is one of the signs of the progress of humanity, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope affirmed this Saturday when he visited the Italian embassy to the Holy See.
The Church "not only recognizes and respects the distinction and autonomy" of the state vis-à-vis the Church, but also "takes joy in this as one of the great advances of humanity," he said.
This separation is "a fundamental condition for [the Church's] very liberty and the fulfillment of its universal mission of salvation among all peoples," the Holy Father added. "This brief visit is conducive to reaffirming that the Church is very aware that the distinction between what is of Caesar and what is of God belongs to the fundamental structure of Christianity."
At the same time, he added, the Church "feels that it is her duty, following the dictates of social doctrine, developed from what is in conformity with the nature of every human being, to awaken moral and spiritual forces in society, contributing to open up wills to the authentic demands of the good."
The Pontiff continued: "Reclaiming the value that ethical principles have, not only in private life but rather fundamentally for public life, the Church contributes to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society.
"In this sense, the desired cooperation between Church and state is truly fulfilled."
Benedict XVI is the fourth Pope to visit the Italian embassy. Pope Pius XII started the tradition in 1951.
Saturday's visit marked the upcoming 80th anniversary of the Lateran Treaty, to be celebrated in February, which established the separation of the Italian republic and Vatican City State.
The Holy Father expressed his gratitude for the "contribution of the Italian authorities so that the Holy See can freely develop its universal mission and therefore maintain diplomatic relations with so many countries of the world."
The "fruitful relationship" between Italy and the Holy See, the Pontiff continued, implies "a very important and significant understanding in the current world situation, in which the perpetuation of conflicts and tensions between peoples makes collaboration between those who share the same ideals of justice, solidarity and peace ever more necessary."
Benedict XVI also noted the significance of the Italian embassy using the palace of St. Charles Borromeo, who has a young cardinal and collaborator of his uncle, Pope Pius IV, worked in the diplomacy of the Holy See.
After a deep conversion, the saint was eventually made the archbishop of Milan, a task to which he dedicated himself tirelessly, especially during the plague.
The life of this saint, to which the chapel of the reformed palace of the embassy is dedicated, "shows how divine grace can transform the heart of man and make it capable of love for one's brother to the point of sacrificing oneself," the Pope said. "Those who work here can find in this saint a constant protector, and at the same time, a model in whom to find inspiration."
Finally, the Holy Father took the opportunity to wish a merry Christmas to the authorities of Italy and the whole world, "whether or not they have diplomatic relations with the Holy See."
"This is a desire," he said, "of light and authentic human progress, of prosperity and concord, all realities to which we can aspire with trusting hope, because they are gifts that Jesus has brought to the world by being born in Bethlehem."