Pope Benedict XVI argued that a democratic state should support Catholic schools

Vatican City, May. 29, 2008 (vaticans.org) - In a May 29 talk to the Italian bishops' conference, Pope Benedict XVI argued that a democratic state should support Catholic schools.

Since the government invests resources in many different projects, the Holy Father reasoned, "there does not appear to be any justification for excluding adequate support for the work of Church institutions in the field of education." Public investment in Catholic schools, he said, "could not fail to produce beneficial effects" for secular society.

The Italian bishops are holding their 58th general assembly in Rome this week, with the meetings taking place in the Vatican Synod hall. The Pope spoke to the bishops about the main topics for this meeting: education and evangelization.

Italy today faces an "educational crisis," the Pope warned, raising a theme that he has mentioned frequently during his pontificate. The Pontiff has repeatedly spoken about the need to provide young people with adequate moral and cultural formation. From the Catholic perspective, he said, the educational crisis involves "the transmission of the faith to new generations."

Educators and pastors must battle with a culture of relativism, which "puts God within parentheses and discourages all true commitment," the Pope told the Italian hierarchy. To overcome that sort of opposition, he said, the Church needs to muster greater "evangelical energy" and to demonstrate the joy of faith.

The Pope said that he could see signs of a desire for change in Italian society-- signs of a new willingness to recognize the need for moral integrity and commitment. The Church has a special role to play in that societal recovery, he said, adding: "No other human and social problem can truly be solved if God does not return to the center of our lives."

While recognizing the autonomy of the secular political world, the Pope told the prelates that "it is important to resist all tendencies to consider religion, and in particular Christianity, as a purely private matter." He urged the bishops to continue their efforts to support marriage and family life, and to act as advocates the poor in Italy and around the world.

In other news, the Holy See has confirmed that on June 6, Pope Benedict will receive Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a private audience. The Pope and Berlusconi last met on November, 19, 2005 during a previous Berlusconi term as prime minister.

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