“A great resource of humanity”

View over the Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter's Basilica © Julia Steinbrecht (KNA)

As Rome kicks off its 150th anniversary as Italy's capital, Pope Francis has called on Romans to stand up for their city despite its shortcomings. It's about a "common vision" for the city, he said.

You can't live in "Rome 'bowed down,'" reads a message of greeting read by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin at a ceremony Monday at the "Teatro dell'Opera". After the conquest of the Papal States by Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1870, Rome had been declared the capital of the then Kingdom of Italy.

As bishop of Rome, Francis calls people to a "common vision of a fraternal and universal city". Especially migrants and refugees, who often live under difficult conditions on the outskirts of the 3.5 million metropolis, see Rome as a harbor of hope. "Often they see the city with more expectations and hopes than we Romans, who, because of the many daily problems, only look at it pessimistically, as if it were doomed to decay," the pope said. Rome, on the contrary, is "a great resource of humanity".

International meeting place

After the victory of Italy's troops against the pope's, the proclamation of Rome as capital did cause problems and polemics at the time, Francis writes. But the city, Italy and the church had changed and a new history had begun. In addition, the Pope recalled the occupation of Rome by the Germans and the deportation of many Jews. After the church in Rome had hidden many Jews at that time, Christians and Jews had come closer to each other.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), he says, made Rome an international meeting place, giving it worldwide prestige. Francis also recalled the so-called "conference on the evils of Rome" in 1974. Already at that time, at the suggestion of the Church, social and infrastructure problems of the metropolis were discussed. Rome still suffers from broken roads, unreliable garbage collection and slow administration, as well as poverty and drug-related crime.

Numerous anniversary events planned

In September 1870, Italian troops led by Garibaldi had conquered Rome and in October annexed the Papal States to the Kingdom of Italy. On 26. January 1871, Rome was declared the capital of the kingdom united in the years before; it took over this role from Turin and later Florence, which from 1865 acted as capital. Rome's anniversary will be celebrated with numerous events in the coming months.

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