05/21/2007, 00.00
ITALY – VATICAN
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A missionary Church that defends the family, says Mgr Bagnasco

In the wake of what Benedict XVI said in his recent travels, the chairman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference said that the “Church defends the identity of the people, respecting a ‘proper separation between state and Church,’ whilst suggesting ‘the great principles and binding values, giving people direction and offering them an option in life’.” The recent celebration of Family Day “is now waiting for a response from the authorities that is equal to the seriousness of the problems indicated.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “Christ and the Gospel concern us; nothing else.” From this stems the Italian Church’s missionary choice, its concern for man’s total reality, its defence of the family and its concern for people’s real life, its openness to everyone, its lack of duplicity vis-à-vis political authorities when it denounces what it considers wrong, and where necessary, demands action. The first prolusion by the new chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Italy (CEI), Mgr Angelo Bagnasco, dealt first of all with the Church’s mission, and it came at the start of the CEI’s 57th assembly which opened this afternoon in the Vatican. Mission and protecting the family, but also the Church’s relations to the state, were among the most important issues he touched upon.

In the wake of what Benedict XVI said in his trips to Vigevano and Pavia (Italy) and the most recent one to Brazil, Mgr Bagnasco said that “the Church defends the identity of the people, respecting a ‘proper separation between state and Church,’ whilst suggesting ‘the great principles and binding values, giving people direction and offering them an option in life’. The many calls to respect life and defend the family are part of this and are meant to stop the scorn and threats they face at the level of the media and legislature.”

As for the family he also referred to the May 12 Family day whose success was “something important and a consolation for us bishops.” It was, in his words, “a truly popular celebration” that was a “strong and unanimous tribute to marriage as the foundation and incomparable basis of society.”

Mgr Bagnasco noted “that if secular media sometimes did not see the newness and importance of the event, public opinion will not easily forget it whilst political life will not be left untouched by it. On this day, civil society expressed itself unequivocally and is now waiting for a response from the authorities that is equal to the seriousness of the problems indicated.”

The chairman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference also spoke about other positive signs regarding the family; among them, a congress held in Rome in March about the “Rights and Responsibilities of the Family” organised under the auspices of the United Nations. Some 44 countries and almost a hundred non governmental organisations took part in the event.

“The declaration that came out of this meeting calls on the international community to ‘better protect the family from discrimination.’ On this occasion, there was no fear to talk about the family’s stability, about it being a precious and invaluable resource as far as education, social cohesion and even economic growth are concerned. Similarly, it is important to mention that poor school results, drug abuse and violence drop in direct relation to policies of economic and social support for the family,”

Families, especially large, one-income families experience economic hardships in Italy the most. On the one hand, this should encourage all Christians to show solidarity towards their fellow man and, on the other, it ought to sway people to give charity which, in another way, is part of the missionary calling of the Italian Church.

Generally speaking, this is the main thrust that came out of the recent ecclesial congress in Verona, whose pastoral note will be examined by the assembly itself.

“I am happy to insist,” Mgr Bagnasco said, “on how the missionary dimension is inherent in the everyday pastoral work of our parishes and communities. Through the articulated life of these entities we are in continued contact with people, some of them non believers or non-practicing. By interacting with pastors, they hear the Lord announced. Lest we forget the Gospel exhorts us to sow generously, without selecting the better soil, but with great trust in the power of grace.”

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