Pontiff to Address Church-State Separation

Spokesman Says Most Likely Upon Arrival

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- It is expected that Benedict XVI will address the topic of the separation of Church and state this weekend during his trip to France, according to a Vatican spokesmen.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Tuesday that the Pope would most likely address the topic in his first address upon arriving to the country Friday.

The Pope will travel Friday-Monday to Paris and Lourdes. His visit to the Marian shrine takes place in the context of the 150th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady to Bernadette Soubirous.

Father Lombardi explained that the Pontiff, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was appointed in 1992 as an associate foreign member of France's Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, might refer to the vision of "positive secularity" discussed by President Nicolas Sarkozy in an address last December at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Sarkozy said in his address that "secularism should not be a denial of the past. It does not have the power to sever France from its Christian roots. This has been tried. It shouldn't have been done."

Break with protocol

Father Lombardi reported that Sarkozy himself will greet the Holy Father at the airport, as President George Bush had done when the Pontiff visited the United States in April.

According to protocol in France, the prime minister welcomes a head of state while the president awaits him in his official residence, the Élysée Palace, for the welcoming ceremony.

The Vatican spokesman clarified that the welcome will be private, and no addresses will be delivered.

At the Élysée Palace, Benedict XVI and Sarkozy will meet privately, and afterward the official welcoming ceremony will take place during which the Pope will deliver his first public address of the trip. Some 700 people, including high-ranking politicians and government authorities, will attend the ceremony.

Catholic teaching

Father Lombardi noted for context the letter Pope John Paul II wrote on Feb. 11, 2005, to the president of the French episcopal conference on the occasion of the centenary of the law of separation between Church and State.

The Vatican spokesman presented the text of the letter as a "very positive" summary the Catholic position of secularism.

John Paul II wrote, "The principle of secularity to which your country is extremely attached, if it is well understood, belongs also to the social doctrine of the Church."

Father Lombardi said the Pope noted the "need for a just separation of powers, that echoes Christ's invitation to his disciples: 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'"

John Paul II added, "For its part, the non-confessional character of the state, which is the non-involvement of the civil power in the life of the Church and of the different religions, such as in the sphere of the spiritual, allows all the components of society to work together in the service of all and of the national community."

Benedict XVI also addressed the topic of secularism in April when visiting the United States. He called the country an "example of healthy secularism."

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On the Net:

Church Backs a Balanced Secularity, Says John Paul II: www.zenit.org/article-12248?l=english