Without Ethics, Democracy Deteriorates, Warns Pope

Proposes Example of Giorgio La Pira, Former Mayor of Florence

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Without ethics, democracy is in danger of disappearing, John Paul II said as he proposed to politicians the example of a former mayor whose cause for beatification is under way.



The Pope expressed this conviction today when he received in audience mayors who came to the Vatican as representatives of the National Association of Italian Municipalities.

"Without ethical foundations, democracy runs the risk of deteriorating with the passing of time and even of disappearing," the Holy Father told his guests.

This is the legacy left by Giorgio La Pira (1904-1977), a jurist, politician and deputy of the Christian Democratic Party who participated in the assembly that wrote the Italian Constitution after World War II.

La Pira was elected mayor of Florence in the periods 1950-1956 and 1960-1964.

The Pope described La Pira, a member of the Dominican Third Order, as an "eminent figure of politics, culture and spirituality of the century that has just ended."

The mayor of Florence served "the cause of fraternal coexistence among nations," fostering in particular "friendship between peoples, whose reference is Abraham," the Holy Father said.

"Before the powerful of the earth, La Pira expressed with firmness his ideas as believer and as a man who loved peace, inviting his interlocutors to a common effort to promote that fundamental good in different ambits: in society, politics, the economy, cultures, and among religions," the Pope added.

"In political theory and praxis, La Pira felt the need to apply the methodology of the Gospel, being inspired by the commandment of love and forgiveness," John Paul II said.

"The 'congresses for peace and Christian civilization,' which he promoted in Florence from 1952 to 1956, to foster friendship among Christians, Jews and Muslims, continue to be emblematic," the Pope said.

Quoting a letter that La Pira sent in 1964 to a friend, Italian politician Amintore Fanfani, the Holy Father said that his words are of "amazing timeliness."

"Politicians," La Pira wrote, "are civil leaders to whom the Lord entrusts, through the changeable techniques of the times, the mandate to lead peoples to peace, unity and the spiritual and civil development of each nation and of all of them together."

The Pope said: "La Pira had the extraordinary experience of a man who was a politician and a believer, able to unite contemplation and prayer to social and administrative activity, with a predilection for the poor and those who suffer."

"With the contribution of everyone, the dream of a better world can become a reality," the Holy Father added. "May God grant humanity to see the realization of this prophecy of peace!"

John Paul II thanked the National Association of Italian Municipalities for its aid to Bethlehem's Caritas Baby Hospital, in memory of the message promoted with his life by La Pira.

For his part, Leonardo Domenici, president of the association, gave the Pope the "Seal of Peace," a silver medal that expresses a message of peace and freedom adopted by the highest authority of the Florentine Republic in the year 1400.