Monday, May 15, 2006

Protection of the Family

Saturday morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its foundation. It was established by John Paul II on May 9, 1981.

Pope Benedict recalled how "the family founded on marriage constitutes a 'heritage of humanity,' a fundamental social institution; it is the vital cell and the pillar of society, and concerns both believers and non-believers. This is something to which all States must give great consideration because, as John Paul II liked to say, 'the future of humanity passes by way of the family'."

After highlighting how separation and divorce are currently on the rise, "breaking family unity and creating no small number of problems for children, the innocent victims of such situations," the Holy Father called for the stability of families to be protected. This, he added, "often means going against the tide," and requires "patience, commitment, sacrifice and the incessant search for mutual understanding." Married couples can overcome their difficulties and remain faithful to their vocation by "relying upon the support of God through prayer and assiduous participation in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The unity and strength of families helps society to absorb true human values and to open itself to the Gospel."

Benedict XVI then went on to refer to the "extremely delicate subject" of "the respect due to the human embryo, which should always be born from an act of love and be treated as a person. Scientific and technological progress in the field of bioethics becomes a threat when man loses the sense of his own limitations and, in effect, aims to take the place of God the Creator." In this context, he recalled Pope Paul VI's Encyclical "Humanae vitae," affirming that "human procreation must always be the fruit of a conjugal act with its dual unitive and procreative significance."

"'Eros, reduced to pure sex," Pope Benedict continued, quoting his own Encyclical "Deus caritas est," becomes "a commodity, a mere thing to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. ... Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body.' Yet thanks to God, many people, especially the young, are rediscovering the value of chastity, which appears ever more clearly as a sure guarantee of authentic love."

The Holy Father added: "The historical moment through which we are living requires Christian families to bear courageous and coherent witness to the fact that procreation is the fruit of love. Such a testimony will not fail to encourage politicians and legislators to safeguard the rights of the family. We know that there are increasing juridical measures authorizing so-called 'de facto' unions which, while refusing the obligations of marriage, still wish to enjoy the same rights. Moreover, at times it is even sought to arrive at a new definition of marriage, legalizing homosexual unions and giving them the right to adopt children."

The Pope concluded his address with an invitation to all dioceses to send delegations to participate in the Fifth World Meeting of Families, due to be held in July in Valencia, Spain."

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