Book Explores Freedom, Laicism

Includes a Letter from Benedict XVI to Italian Politician

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ROME, JULY 18, 2006 ( A book including a signed letter from Benedict XVI to Marcello Pera has been released, entitled Freedom and Laicism.

The book, including the Pope's letter and the response from Pera, the former president of the Italian senate, explores the themes of freedom and laicism in modern society.

In the October 2005 letter, the Holy Father says that "it will be necessary to work for a cultural and spiritual renewal of Italy and of the European continent so that laicism will not be interpreted as hostility against religion, but, on the contrary, as a commitment to guarantee to all, individuals and groups, in respect of the exigencies of the common good, the possibility to live and express one's own religious convictions."

For his part the [now] senator Marcello Pera -- who on several occasions has publicly declared himself a non-believer -- wrote the Pope on October 16 and said: "We make our own the idea that the lay state, as opposed to the secularist and ideological, hardened by secularization, is not hostile to men's religious sentiment, but collaborates with it."

In addition to these letters, the book includes other articles exploring the theme.