Disregard of family threatens societyHoly Father warns Latin American Bishops of danger posed by unions contrary to God's original plan
"A child's greatest poverty is to be deprived of the love,
protection and tender warmth of a family", the Holy Father said to
the Bishops who serve as Presidents of Latin American Episcopal
Commissions for the Family, whom he received in audience on
Thursday, 12 December 1996, during a meeting sponsored by the
Pontifical Council for the Family. Here is translation of the
Pope's address, which was given in Spanish.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am pleased to receive this morning the Bishops who serve as
Presidents of the Latin American Episcopal Commissions for the
Family and their coworkers, and various Latin American members of
the Pontifical Council for the Family, who have come to take part
in this meeting whose primary purpose is to prepare the <Second
World Meeting with Families.>
I am grateful for Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo's kind words. I
also address a special greeting to Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo
Sales, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, and Archbishop Claudio Hummes
of Fortaleza, director of the Family Apostolate of the National
Bishops' Conference of Brazil.
The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, the rest of Brazil and all
Latin America, with the valuable collaboration of CELAM, are
preparing the world meeting that will take place on 4-5 October
1997. This meeting will afford the Successor of Peter a new
opportunity to address the world's families, encouraging them to
intensify and fulfil their commitments at this moment in history,
as the theme chosen suggests: <The Family: Gift and Commitment,
Hope of Humanity.>
With a view to this preparation, you have already embarked on an
educational campaign, using catechetical material which will be
the topic of reflection throughout the world and a help to
everyone in taking responsibility for the tasks of this urgent
pastoral priority. Accompanying you with my prayers, I am also
preparing for this meeting, which will enable me again to visit
the Latin America I love so much.
2. Your visit takes place 15 years after the Apostolic Exhortation
<Familiaris consortio> was published, the valuable result of the
Synod on the Family celebrated in 1980. It is a basic charter as
it were that recognizes the family's decisive and overriding
importance for humanity and the Church, and it has given a
vigorous incentive to the renewal of the family apostolate. At the
same time, it has also given an impetus to this particular
apostolate, offering the Bishops a valuable tool for helping
families fulfil their mission, so that husband and wife may
reflect the Lord's faithful love and, with his Church, take part
in God's work by transmitting life and raising their children in
authentic Gospel values.
In our times, it is essential to deepen everyone's personal
commitment to helping enrich this primary and vital cell of
society. It should not be forgotten, in the general planning of
ecclesial activities, that the family is the first and principal
path of the Church. Awareness of its central value for
evangelization must imbue the whole structure of diocesan pastoral
3. <Familiaris consortio> insists most particularly on the rights
of the family for which it is as it were a Magna Charta. For this
reason, encouragement should be given to projects that endeavour
to make all institutions having legislative or governmental
responsibilities -in view of the rights of this natural
institution expressly desired by God- respect, help and promote
the family as a basic, necessary good for society as a whole. The
future of humanity and of Latin America certainly passes through
4. As everyone knows, wherever the Church has been unable to carry
out her usual work of evangelization, it has frequently been
families that have preserved and maintained the faith, passing it
on to the new generations. This function proper to the family as
the first teacher of its new members expresses the true vocation
and mission of Christian parents, whose primary responsibility
involves their children's human and religious formation.
5. In recent years we have witnessed with deep concern the
appearance of a systematic challenge to the family, which calls
into question the values that form this natural institution's very
foundations. Under the pretext of caring for and protecting the
family and all families, the fact that there is a model loved and
blessed by God is overlooked. The specific character of the
spouses' conjugal promise is denied, underestimating this
indissoluble commitment. Likewise, an attempt is sometimes made to
introduce other forms of union, contrary to God's original plan
for the human race. In this way, the rights of the family are
disregarded or weakened, thereby threatening society at its very
roots and attacking its future.
Indeed, marriage or the conjugal commitment of a man and woman,
with mutual love and the transmission of life, are primary values
for society, which civil legislation cannot disregard or combat.
This is why the Church and her Pastors cannot be indifferent to
certain attempts at substantial changes which affect the family
Undoubtedly everything related to the fundamental rights of
children is crucial: to have a real home, to be accepted, loved,
educated and to have the good example of their parents. A child's
greatest poverty is to be deprived of the love, protection and
tender warmth of a family.
With the Christmas holidays close at hand, we approach the cave of
Bethlehem with deep veneration. There we find the Holy Family in
which our Saviour was born and grew up. Contemplating this divine
mystery, we discover how the light of a star illumines the ways of
humanity and guides us toward the threshold of the third Christian
millennium. The light of this star, as God's presence among men,
must also illumine us all and lead us to truly commit ourselves to
tirelessly promoting the perennial values of the family, the
little domestic church, the sanctuary of life and the cradle of
the civilization of love.
6. Dear brothers in my Apostolic Letter <Tertio millennio
adveniente> I stated that the preparation for the Great Jubilee of
the Year 2000 must necessarily pass through the family (cf. n.
28). I therefore encourage you to continue this specific task. May
the contemplation of life in the house of Nazareth, an example for
all the world's families and the place where the Lord, "the
Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and forever" (ibid., n.
40), experienced family life, I encourage you to offer the world
the light for which humanity is waiting. May the Apostolic
Blessing I affectionately impart to you be of great help.
Taken from the January 22, 1997 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano".
Editorial and Management Offices, Via del pellegrino, 00120,
Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.
The Work of God Apostolate