Pope awards Paul VI International Prize to Italian President
By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis on Monday awarded the Paul VI prize, on the feast day of the Saint, to Italian President, Sergio Mattarella.
The prize, awarded in memory of Pope Montini was established in 1979 by the Paul VI Institute and is awarded to individuals or institutions “who, with their studies and their works, have contributed to the growth of the religious meaning in the world”.
Addressing the participants in the award ceremony in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the Pope recalled that Pope Saint Paul VI is also to be thanked for the Second Vatican Council which, amongst other things, emphasised the role of the lay faithful. “Prominent amongst their occupations is politics”, he said, describing politics as “one of the highest forms of charity”. But, the Pope continued, ”We may ask ourselves - how to make political action a form of charity and, on the other hand, how to live charity within political dynamics?"
The answer lies in the word “service” the Pope continued. St. Paul VI said that those who exercise public power must regard themselves "as the servants of their fellow countrymen, with the disinterestedness and integrity befitting their high office".
Christ himself spoke of the difficulty of serving and doing for others, noted the Holy Father, who stressed his idea that ‘'he who does not live to serve does not live to live. I believe that today the awarding of the Paul VI Prize to President Mattarella is a beautiful occasion to celebrate the value and dignity of service, the highest style of living, which puts others before one's own expectations”.
Addressing President Mattarella directly, the Pope went on to stress that this is true for him, a fact “witnessed by the Italian people”. He recalled how the President recently renounced his long-awaited retirement when he stepped back in and took on a new mandate “in the name of the service required of you by the State”.
Pope Francis then went on to stress that to make service complete one must also apply responsibility. “Service goes hand in hand with responsibility”, said the Pope. “It is, as the word itself indicates, the ability to offer answers, drawing on one's own commitment, without waiting for others to give them”, explained the Pope, before turning to President Mattarella once more and noting “how many times, Mr President, first by example and then by words, have you called for this!”
Bringing his discourse to a close the Pope reiterated that “yes, the sense of responsibility and the spirit of service were for St. Paul VI at the basis of the construction of social life”. He left behind a legacy of building communities of solidarity, and that was his dream.
"I am happy," Pope Francis said bringing his discourse to an end, “to make myself an instrument of gratitude on behalf of all those, young and old, who see in you a teacher, but above all a consistent and courteous witness of service and responsibility”. Pope Montini would be pleased, he concluded, and quoting him saying: "Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers he does so because they are witnesses".