history with parliament speech
By Eric J. Lyman
From the International
Published 11/14/2002 4:32 PM
ROME, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- In an address heavy with historical
implications, Pope John Paul II used an address to the Italian
parliament to call on world religions to cooperate to fight
terrorism, and he urged Italians to have more children.
But the address -- the first by a pope to Italian lawmakers
-- will be most remembered for breaking a 132-year-long
sometimes icy relationship between Italy and the Holy See,
which saw its temporal powers ended by Italian unification in
Until the 108 acres of the Vatican were set up by Fascist
leader Benito Mussolini as the world's smallest country in
1929, popes officially considered themselves "prisoners" of
the Italian state.
The Holy See and the Italian government have periodically
been at odds when laws were passed over the years allowing
divorce, abortion and birth control -- all against church
teachings. To this day, many citizens of predominantly
Catholic Italy view the Vatican with suspicion.
But John Paul, the best traveled pope in history, became
the first pontiff to make the trip of less than a mile to the
parliament building, which was originally built as the
headquarters for the papacy's courts.
He used the opportunity to address what he called a list of
the world's and Italy's most serious ills in a speech
interrupted several times by applause.
The 82-year-old pontiff said that using religion to justify
acts of terror was wrong, and he called on faiths to unite to
fight terror groups by educating believers so that religious
reasons are used less to justify violence.
He also blamed the use of contraceptives for Italy's low
birth rate, which is fueling a host of problems in the
country, ranging from a shrinking working class to an
increasingly expensive pension system.
He said that pro-family incentives from the government --
such as government assistance for women who choose to stay
home to raise children -- could reverse the problem.
The pope also called on Italy and other wealthy countries
to allow for more immigrants from developing countries, a
point that attracted a great deal of applause from lawmakers
opposed to the strict anti-immigration policies from the
center-right government of media tycoon and premier Silvio
Addressing the expansion of the European Union, which will
in 2004 add as many as 10 new members -- including John Paul's
native Poland -- the pope said the would-be 25-nation bloc
should celebrate its common Christian roots and refer to God
in its new constitution, an area of debate among EU
The aged pope, whose health has increasingly been a subject
of concern, looked stronger than usual during the 40-minute
address, which dominated Italian news coverage. Television
commentators began discussing the address a full two hours
before it started, and newspapers devoted pages to preview
coverage of the event.
All seven national television networks used airborne
cameras to follow the 20-minute procession from St. Peter's
Square to the parliament, discussing the historical
significance of buildings passed along the way.
The pope did not address several issues that newspapers had
speculated might be mentioned, including proposed EU
membership for predominantly Muslim Turkey, calls for a
general clemency for prisoners in Italy's crowded prison
system, and the separation of church and state, an issue that
led at least eight opposition lawmakers to boycott the
The address is the fourth parliamentary address for the
pontiff, who is the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
Before addressing Italian lawmakers, John Paul spoke to the
parliaments in Australia, his native Poland and in the tiny
republic of San Marino, another microstate completely
surrounded by Italian territory. Copyright
© 2002 United Press International