Portugal: New ambassador to the Holy See

Source: FSSPX News


“I wish to express my sincere thanks to your government for the recognition of the Christian identity of Europe and I pray that you will affirm this conviction as much at national level as at international,” the pope told the new ambassador Joao Alberto Bacelar Da Rocha Paris, received at Castel Gandolfo on September 21. On June 19 2004, the day after the adoption of European constitutional plan in Brussels, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that the Holy See would not fail to thank the governments who were committed to inscribing the Christian heritage of Europe into their constitutional text.

Furthermore, the pope recalled the signature of the new concordat (the preceding one dating back to 1940 under Salazar) between the Holy See and Portugal, on May 18, 2004. For the Sovereign Pontiff, it concerned the “living expression of a mature consensus.” The Prime Minister, José Manuel Durao Barroso, had gone on this occasion to the Vatican in order to sign the new concordat text with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State. It was the predecessor of Joao Alberto Bacelar Da Rocha Paris, Pedro José Ribeiro de Menezes who, from November 2000 to May 2004, was charged with the negotiation of this agreement. In his speech addressed to the pope, the new ambassador hoped that the new concordat would be quickly ratified and brought into force.

During the signing of the new concordat, the pope stressed that the text “confirmed the feeling of mutual esteem between the Holy See and Portugal.” The concordat sets down the juridical position of the Catholic Church and its institutions. The state guarantees free and public exercise of its activity, in particular with regard to worship, magisterium and ministry, but also jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters. It recognizes, moreover, in line with the teaching of Vatican II religious liberty, particularly in the domain of conscience, worship, meetings, associations, public expression, teaching and charitable activities.

“I hope that Portugal will always be open to the challenges of our societies,” said John Paul II to the new Portuguese ambassador, stressing the difficult international situation. Since the start of the millennium, “the regional differences have increased, as much from a cultural point of view as an economic one. I am concerned about safeguarding peace in the face of the growth of extremist groups, the frequency of natural disasters, which are no less serious, affecting entire populations, such as uncontrollable endemic illnesses, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor and whose consequences undermine human rights. This must be in the minds of all governments, conscious of the impact of their own decisions on globalization,” he concluded.

Portugal has had a representative at the Holy See for 825 years, emphasized Joao Alberto Bacelar Da Rocha Paris, who recalled in his address to the pope the “great fidelity” of Portugal “to the fundamental values of Christianity.” – Today, it is true, two thirds of the Portuguese declare themselves Catholics, but society is becoming secularist and the influence of the Church is gradually becoming weaker: only 25% of the Portuguese say that they go to Mass regularly and a third of marriages do not take place in Church.