At 9.30 a.m. yesterday, the Holy Father presided at Mass in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain, in the presence of more than a million and a half people. During the ceremony, which marked the closure of the Fifth World Meeting of Families, the Pope used the Holy Chalice.
In his homily, after thanking God for the "joyful throng of beloved families" gathered in Valencia, and for the others following the event on radio and television, Benedict XVI mentioned the day's Gospel readings which, he said, show the family "to us as a community of generations and the guarantee of a patrimony of traditions."
"All of us received from others both life itself and its basic truths," said the Holy Father, "and we have been called to attain perfection in relationship and loving communion with others. The family, founded on indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, is the expression of this relational, filial and communal aspect of life."
"Once children are born, ... together with the gift of life, they receive a whole patrimony of experience. Parents have the right and the inalienable duty to transmit this heritage to their children: to help them find their own identity, to initiate them to the life of society, to foster the responsible exercise of their moral freedom and their ability to love on the basis of their having been loved and, above all, to enable them to encounter God. Children experience human growth and maturity to the extent that they trustingly accept this heritage and training which they gradually make their own. They are thus able to make a personal synthesis between what has been passed on and what is new, a synthesis that every individual and generation is called to make.
"At the origin of every man and woman, and thus in all human fatherhood and motherhood, we find God the Creator," the Pope added. "For this reason, married couples must accept the child born to them, not simply as theirs alone, but also as a child of God, loved for his or her own sake and called to be a son or daughter of God. ... The memory of this Father sheds light on our deepest human identity: where we come from, who we are, and how great is our dignity. ... Consequently, at the origin of every human being there is not something haphazard or chance, but a loving plan of God. This was revealed to us by Jesus Christ. ... He knew whence He came and whence all of us have come: from the love of His Father and ours.
"Faith, then, is not merely a cultural heritage, but the constant working of the grace of God Who calls and our human freedom, which can respond or not to His call. Even if no one can answer for another person, Christian parents are still called to give a credible witness of their Christian faith and hope. ... Thus, with the constant witness of the their parents' conjugal love, permeated with a living faith, and with the loving accompaniment of the Christian community, children will be helped better to appropriate the gift of their faith, to discover the deepest meaning of their own lives and to respond with joy and gratitude."
"In contemporary culture, we often see an excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual as an autonomous subject, as if we were self-created and self-sufficient, apart from our relationship with others and our responsibilities in their regard."
However, "the Church does not cease to remind us that true human freedom derives from our having been created in God's image and likeness. Christian education is consequently an education in freedom and for freedom. We do not do good as slaves, who are not free to act otherwise, we do it because we are personally responsible for the world; because we love truth and goodness, because we love God Himself and therefore His creatures as well."
"The joyful love with which our parents welcomed us and accompanied our first steps in this world is like a sacramental sign and prolongation of the benevolent love of God from which we have come. The experience of being welcomed and loved by God and by our parents is always the firm foundation for authentic human growth and authentic development, helping us to mature on the way towards truth and love, and to move beyond ourselves in order to enter into communion with others and with God.
"To help us advance along the path of human maturity, the Church teaches us to respect and foster the marvelous reality of the indissoluble marriage between man and woman which is also the origin of the family. To recognize and assist this institution is one of the greatest services which can be rendered nowadays to the common good and to the authentic development of individuals and societies, as well as the best means of ensuring the dignity, equality and true freedom of the human person."
"The Christian family, "Benedict XVI concluded, "is called, then, to do all these things not as a task imposed from without, but rather as a gift of the sacramental grace of marriage poured out upon the spouses. If they remain open to the Spirit and implore His help, He will not fail to bestow on them the love of God the Father made manifest and incarnate in Christ. The presence of the Spirit will help spouses not to lose sight of the source and criterion of their love and self-giving, and to cooperate with Him to make it visible and incarnate in every aspect of their lives. The Spirit will also awaken in them a yearning for the definitive encounter with Christ in the house of His Father and ours. And this is the message of hope that, from Valencia, I wish to share with all the families of the world."
After the Mass, and before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father expressed his thanks for everyone whose efforts had contributed to making the Valencia meeting a success, and announced that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in Mexico City, Mexico, in 2009.