Disregard of family threatens society

Holy 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.

Your Eminences

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

the family.

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