Rome, May. 1, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI has given his full support and encouragement to Genoa's Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian bishops' conference, in the wake of death threats against the Italian prelate. The Holy Father placed a personal phone call to Archbishop Bagnasco on Monday, April 30, after hearing that the archbishop had received a bullet in the mail. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said the Pope's gesture was "a personal call of solidarity." Later on Monday the Pope followed up on his message with a telegram, signed in his named by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, urging Archbishop Bagnasco to “continue in his work for the common good, defending and promoting those human and religious values without which it is impossible to build true, free and stable democracies." The Pope went on to express “his profound and painful shock” at the “grave and despicable events which aim to disturb the serene coexistence of the civil and ecclesial community." Archbishop Bagnasco has received several threats-- including some ominous messages spray-painted on the Genoa cathedral-- since he issued a strong statement on March 31 opposing legal recognition of same-sex marriage and asserting the right of the Church to speak out on public issues. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano also sent a message of support for Archbishop Bagnasco. "I wish to assure you," the Italian leader send in a message to the Vatican Secretary of State, "that Italy will not leave Archbishop Bagnasco alone to face the present threats.” Since the latest death threat, which arrived this weekend, Archbishop Bagnasco has received a heavy policy escort, and security guards have flanked him during his public appearances. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who had preceded Archbishop Bagnasco as president of the Italian bishops' conference, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that Italian Church leaders would not be silenced by threats. “We will speak even more clearly and forcefully," he vowed.