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Commitment to the promotion of the family

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 1 December 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In order to be properly prepared for the Great Jubilee, the Christian community should be seriously committed to rediscovering the value of the family and marriage (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 51). This is all the more urgent since today this value is questioned at many levels of culture and society.

Not only are certain models of family life being challenged, which change under the pressure of social transformations and new working conditions. It is the concept itself of the family, as a community founded on marriage between a man and a woman, that is attacked in the name of ethical relativism, which is spreading in wide areas of public opinion and in civil legislation itself.

The crisis of the family becomes, in turn, a cause of the crisis in society. Many pathological phenomena - from loneliness to violence and drugs - are also due to the fact that families have lost their identity and purpose. Wherever the family falls apart, society loses its connective tissue with disastrous consequences that affect individuals, especially the weakest:  from children to adolescents, to the handicapped, the sick and the elderly, etc.

2. It is therefore necessary to encourage a reflection that will help not only believers, but all people of good will to rediscover the value of marriage and the family. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read:  "The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security and fraternity within society" (n. 2207).

Reason itself can rediscover the family by listening to the moral law inscribed in the human heart. As a community "which is founded and given life by love" (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, n. 18), the family draws its strength from the definitive covenant of love by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other, becoming together God's collaborators in the gift of life.

On the basis of this fundamental relationship of love, the relationships that are established with and among the other family members must also be inspired by love and marked by affection and mutual support. Far from closing the family in on itself, genuine love opens it to all society, since the little domestic family and the great family of all human beings are not in opposition, but in a close and primordial relationship. At the root of all this is the very mystery of God, which the family evokes in a special way. Indeed, as I wrote a few years ago in my Letter to Families, "in the light of the New Testament it is possible to discern how the primordial model of the family is to be sought in God himself, in the Trinitarian mystery of his life. The divine "We' is the eternal pattern of the human "we', especially of that "we' formed by the man and the woman created in the divine image and likeness" (n. 6).

3. The paternity of God is the transcendent source of all human fatherhood and motherhood. As we lovingly contemplate it, we feel impelled to rediscover that wealth of communion, procreation and life that characterize marriage and the family.

In families, interpersonal relations develop in which each member is entrusted with a specific task, although without rigid patterns. I do not intend to refer here to those social and functional roles which are expressions of specific historical and cultural contexts. I am thinking, rather, of the importance, in the mutual conjugal relationship and the shared parental commitment, of man and woman as they are called to realize their natural characteristics in the context of a deep, enriching and respectful communion. "To this "unity of the two' God has entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life, but the creation of history itself" (Letter to women, n. 8).

4. Children, then, must be seen as the greatest expression of the communion between man and woman, or rather of their reciprocal receiving/giving which is fulfilled and transcended in a "third", in the child himself. A child is a blessing from God. He transforms husband and wife into father and mother (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, n. 21). Both "come out of themselves" and express themselves in a person, which, although the fruit of their love, goes beyond them.

The ideal expressed in the priestly prayer of Jesus, in which he asks that his unity with the Father be extended to the disciples (cf. Jn 17: 11) and to those who believe through their word (cf. Jn 17: 20-21), applies to the family in a special way. Christian families, "domestic churches" (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 11), are especially called to achieve this ideal of perfect communion.

5. Therefore, as we reach the end of this year dedicated to meditation on God the Father, let us rediscover the family in the light of the divine fatherhood. Our contemplation of God the Father prompts an urgent concern which is particularly in keeping with the challenges of this moment in history.

Looking at God the Father means understanding the family as a place where life is welcomed and nurtured, a workshop of brotherhood where, with the help of Christ's Spirit, "a new fraternity and solidarity, a true reflection of the mystery of mutual self-giving and receiving proper to the Most Holy Trinity" (Evangelium vitae, n. 76) is created among men.

From the experience of renewed Christian families, the Church herself can learn how to foster among all the members of the community a more family-like dimension, by accepting and encouraging a more human and fraternal style of relationship (cf. Familiaris consortio, n. 64)."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

Chers pèlerins de langue française, je suis heureux de vous accueillir et je vous souhaite de vous préparer avec ferveur à la fête de Noël, qui marquera le début du grand Jubilé de l'An 2000. Je vous bénis tous de grand cœur.

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. I pray that you will be strengthened in faith, hope and love during this season of Advent, so that you may celebrate Christmas and enter the Jubilee Year with renewed hearts and minds. Upon all present I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ganz herzlich grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Besonders heiße ich die Vorstandschaft des Vereins "Music City International" willkommen, die religiöse Musik für soziale Zwecke verbreiten. Euch, Euren Lieben daheim und allen, die über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen mit uns verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Me es grato saludar a los peregrinos de lengua española, de modo especial a la "Asociación Profesional Española de Informadores". Saludo también a las parroquias de Yecla y a los visitantes de diversos Países de América Latina. Al exhortaros a todos a trabajar por la salvaguardia de la familia, os bendigo con afecto.

Muchas gracias.

Ao saudar cordialmente os peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa que, por acaso, aqui se encontrem, faço votos por que todos vivam com alegria o tempo natalício que se aproxima, na prática das boas obras, especialmente nos seus lares, pelos caminhos da salvação de Cristo: muito Boas Festas e um Feliz Ano Novo, com minha Bênção Apostólica.

Serdecznie pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski. Serdecznie drawiam pielgrzymów z diecezji warszawsko-praskiej. Witam ks. bpa Kazimierza Romaniuka, przedstawicieli władz samorządowych jewództwa mazowieckiego, przedstawicieli duchowieństwa i wiernych.

Wspominam ze wzruszeniem moje spotkanie z diecezją i nawiedzenie waszej katedry. Dziękuję Bożej Opatrzności, że mogłem nawiedzić również Radzymin i spłacić dług wdzięczności wobec tych wszystkich, którzy w r. 1920 podjęli walkę z najeźdźcą i zwyciężyli. Ta historyczna bitwa, zwana również Cudem nad Wisłą, jest mi szczególnie bliska. Bardzo pragnąłem być w Radzyminie i to moje pragnienie się spełniło. Dzisiaj możemy, po dziesiątkach lat milczenia, znowu swobodnie mówić o Cudzie nad Wisłą. Dziękujemy Bogu za łaskę wolności, której tak bohatersko bronili żołnierze 1920 r.

Pozdrawiam także pielgrzymów z diecezji włocławskiej. Witam bpa Bronisława Dembowskiego, a także pana wojewodę wielkopolskiego, prezydentów, burmistrzów miast i gmin. Witam księży dziekanów - przedstawicieli duchowieństwa, jak również przedstawicieli wiernych diecezji włocławskiej.

Dziękuję Opatrzności Bożej, że dane mi było po raz drugi nawiedzić Kościół włocławski. Pierwszy raz podczas pielgrzymki do Polski w r. 1991 miałem okazję spotkać się z wami we Włocławku, w tym roku nawiedziłem sanktuarium Matki Bożej w Licheniu. Dziękuję wam za serdeczne przyjęcie, a księżom marianom za przyjęcie mnie w Licheniu. Zawierzam Maryi całą waszą diecezję, zwłaszcza wasze rodziny, dzieci i młodzież, ludzi chorych, cierpiących i starszych. Niech Bolesna Pani Licheńska wyprasza u swego Syna łaskę wiary, nadziei i miłości.

Wszystkim dziękuję za przybycie, zwłaszcza za wasze modlitwy, które zawsze staram się odwzajemniać.

Pozdrawiam również pielgrzymów z Myśliborza i Zofiówki oraz zespół ludowy « Wileńszczyzna ».

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua croata

Carissimi, a Colui che “è Amore! (1 Gv, 4, 16) si può accedere solo con un cuore pieno di amore. Pertanto, il perdono ai fratelli e alle sorelle e la riconciliazione con loro sono necessari per poter accedere a Dio (cfr Mt 5, 23-24), così da ricevere da Lui il perdono (cfr Mt 6, 14-15; 18, 33-35; Mc 11, 25) e ristabilire la concordia distrutta dal peccato tra Dio e l’uomo e, in pari tempo, tra gli uomini stessi.

Saluto cordialmente il gruppo di pellegrini provenienti da Split ed imparto a loro, come pure agli altri pellegrini croati, la Benedizione Apostolica.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto in lingua slovena

Z veseljem pozdravljam slovensko delegacijo, ki jo vodita Monsinjor Franc Kramberger, mariborski škof, in Monsinjor Franc Rodé, ljubljanski nadškof in predsednik Slovenske škofovske konference.

Predragi, prišli ste v Rim da bi se zahvalili za moj obisk v vaši dezeli in za beatifikacijo škofa Antona Martina Slomška. Iskreno sem vam zahvaljujem za ta znak pozornosti, ki prièa o vaši predanosti Petrovemu Nasledniku. Posebno hvaleznost izrekam tudi èlanom pripravljalnega sveta, ki so tukaj prisotni skupaj s svojim predsednikom.

Medtem ko se spominjam toplega sprejema, ki ste mi ga pripravili in goreènosti vernega ljudstva med slovesnim obredom beatifikacije, zelim, da bi po priprošnji blazenega Antona Martina Slomška, seme, ki je bilo takrat posejano moglo prinesti obilno zetev globoke vere in dejavne ljubezni ter vam podeljujem svoj blagoslov.

(Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovena)

Mi è gradito salutare la Delegazione Slovena, guidata da Mons. Franc Kramberger, Vescovo di Maribor e da Mons. Franc Rode’, Arcivescovo di Ljubljana e Presidente della Conferenza Episcopale Slovena.

Carissimi, siete venuti a Roma per ricambiare la mia visita nel vostro Paese in occasione della Beatificazione del Vescovo Anton Martin Slomšek. Vi ringrazio di cuore per questo gesto gentile, che conferma la vostra devozione verso il Successore di Pietro. Una speciale parola di riconoscenza rivolgo ai Membri del Comitato organizzativo qui presenti con il Presidente.

Nel ricordare con gioia la calorosa accoglienza che mi fu allora tributata ed il fervore manifestato dai fedeli nel corso delle celebrazioni, auspico che, per la intercessione del Beato Anton Martin Slomšek, i semi allora gettati possano produrre una abbondante messe di fede profonda e di carità operosa e a tutti imparto la mia benedizione.

* * *

Rivolgo, ora, un saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, ed in particolare ai fedeli della Parrocchia San Biagio in Limatola, venuti per far benedire la campana monumentale dedicata alla "pace fra i popoli".

Saluto i partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale promosso dalla Società Italiana di Ortodonzia, come pure i membri dell'Associazione "Mediterraneum 2000", che si prefiggono di visitare alcune importanti città europee del Mediterraneo con un treno speciale, partendo dalla Città del Vaticano.

Saluto i componenti del Nucleo Centrale di Polizia Tributaria della Guardia di Finanza, il Comando del Gruppo Navale della Marina Militare di La Spezia ed i Militari italiani in servizio presso la Base Nato di Bagnoli.

Saluto, poi, affettuosamente i bambini russi con i loro accompagnatori. Carissimi, mentre assicuro una particolare preghiera per i vostri cari tragicamente scomparsi nelle miniere, invoco su di voi e sui vostri familiari la continua assistenza divina.

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli presenti in questo incontro, ad Avvento appena iniziato.

Sappiate andare incontro a Cristo, cari giovani, con la coerenza della fede testimoniata nella vita quotidiana.

A Gesù, che ha voluto associarvi ancor più intimamente al disegno della salvezza, sappiate offrire le vostre sofferenze, cari malati, nella consapevolezza di cooperare al bene dell'intera umanità.

E voi, cari sposi novelli, che avete consacrato il vostro amore nel sacramento del matrimonio, sappiate essere generosi e accoglienti nei confronti del grande dono della vita.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.

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