Vatican City, 20 December 2013 (VIS) – This morning, the Pope received the ceremonial diplomatic staff of the Italian Republic and the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, to exchange Christmas greetings.
Francis thanked them for the help, often not easily recognised, that they offer to his ministry, recalling in particular the diplomatic activity behind the ceremony that took place on 19 March 2013, when the Holy Father began his Petrine ministry with a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Square in the presence of heads of State from all over the world.
“Through your service, you are in a position to promote the culture of encounter. You are diplomatic functionaries and all of your work is orientated towards ensuring that the representatives of countries, international organisations and institutions may encounter one another fruitfully. How important this service is! The most specifically ceremonial, most visible element is aimed towards that which is not immediately apparent: to the growth of positive relationships, based on mutual knowledge, respect, and the common search for pathways to development and peace”.
The Holy Father underlined that the Italian diplomats have “an extra card to play: Italian cultural heritage. Italy has always been a synonym, throughout the world, for culture, art and civilisation. You contribute to ensuring that its value is recognised for the culture of encounter, that this heritage is put to the service of the common good, for that which Paul VI called the civilisation of love”.
“Christmas, which is now close, is the celebration of the encounter between God and man. We are given the gift of a Child in Whom this encounter is fully achieved. The message of Christ's birth calls out even to those who are not Christians. I hope that each one of you may live intensely this mystery of love, and that it profoundly inspires your service”.