Pope says Church has right to speak out
Oct 5, 2008 1:37 PM
Pope Benedict paid a state visit to Italy on Sunday and assured its leaders that the Church had no intention of imposing its will in political affairs but defended the right to express itself on social issues.
"There is no reason to fear that the Church and its members will impose themselves and limit freedom," the 81 year-old Pontiff said in a speech in the Quirinale Palace of President Giorgio Napolitano.
"(Church members) also expect to be allowed the freedom to not betray their conscience enlightened by the Gospel," he said, adding that Catholics must be allowed "to play their part in the construction of the social order."
The Vatican has had a sometimes tense relationship with left-leaning Italian governments in recent years over ethical issues such as homosexual unions, stem cell research and the role of Catholic schools in the country.
It sees much more eye-to-eye with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's current centre-right administration, though the Vatican has expressed concern over some of the aspects of a government crackdown on immigration.
The pope greeted onlookers from an open topped car during the roughly two-mile journey from the Vatican to the Quirinale, where he was greeted as a head of state by Napolitano and met with Berlusconi and his top ministers.
Napolitano said the relationship betwen Church and State in Italy was one of "mutual respect and collaboration," as the country prepares to celebrate 150 years since its unification.