Always best to have the original language. Here is what Benedict said.
Italians are a profoundly Catholic people; believers and non believers in God, all are Catholic. There is none of the cultural heterogeneity found elsewhere. Citizenship conferred by descent (give or take a few acquisitors by affinity) and civil and political expression reserved to citizens consolidates and preserves this. The historic resignation of the central cultural leader will have huge political repercussions on this bitter and divisive general election less than two weeks away.
What is the Pope saying? That he washes his hands of us all? That he refuses us the guidance traditionally offered by the Church in temporal choices? That the Church intends to put its weight behind a political choice with which he cannot in conscience agree? That leaving us to our own devices will bring home to us our own responsibilities in the choices that we make? That so deeply is he immersed (as are other, more overtly political leaders) in the choices of the last century and its aftermath that he cannot take part in the choices being made now for the future?
On balance, and there are many more readings into this rarest of actions (surely not by chance, or force majeure, taken now) Catholic Christian Italy is being made very aware of itself and given an understandable desire to assert its continued cultural identity. Intentionally or no a politico-religious and conservative impetus has been delivered to the electorate.
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