FAMILIES today are in crisis, and a commitment from various sectors of society is needed to come to their aid, says Pope Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this on May 16 upon receiving in audience representatives from the Forum of Family Associations and the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations, who were in Rome to participate in the conference “Alliance for the Family in Europe, Associations in the Leading Role”.
Addressing the association representatives in Italian, English, French, German and Portuguese, the Holy Father recalled how the conference aimed “to compare the experiences of various types of family association, and has the objective of raising the awareness of political leaders and public opinion on the central and irreplaceable role that the family plays in our society”.
He drew attention to the 40th anniversary this year of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae, and the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the “Charter of the Rights of the Family”, presented by the Holy See in 1983.
The Pontiff said the two documents work together, “because if the first underlines with authority, going against the current of the dominant culture, the quality of the love of spouses, not manipulated by egotism and open to life, the second demonstrates the inalienable rights that are enjoyed by the family, based in the marriage between a man and a woman, the natural cradle of human life”.
“The Charter of the Rights of the Family is principally addressed to political leaders,” Pope Benedict said, and it “offers those invested with responsibility for the common good a model and a point of reference upon which to base appropriate political legislation for the family.
At the same time, it is addressed to all families, encouraging them to come together in the defence and promotion of their rights.”
The Pontiff then referred to Pope John Paul II, who said “the future of humanity passes by way of the family”.
Pope Benedict said his predecessor, who is rightly called “the Pope of the family”, underlined “the irreplaceable value of the institution of the family, according to the plan of God, Creator and Father”.
“Biblical revelation is above all an expression of a story of love, a story of alliance with God and with mankind,” Pope Benedict said.
“This is why the story of love and union between a man and a woman in the alliance of marriage was taken up by God as a symbol of the history of salvation.”
Turning to consider the difficulties facing families in the modern world, Pope Benedict said: “We are well aware of the many challenges facing families today, and we know how difficult it is, in current social conditions, to achieve the ideal of fidelity and solidarity in conjugal love, to bring up children, and to preserve the harmony of the family unit.
“While on the one hand – thanks be to God – there are shining examples of good families, open to the culture of life and love, on the other hand, sadly, an increasing number of marriages and families are in crisis.
“From so many families, in a worryingly precarious state, we hear a cry for help, often an unconscious one, which clamours for a response from civil authorities, from ecclesial communities and from the various educational agencies.
“Accordingly, there is an increasingly urgent need for a common commitment to support families by every means available, from the social and economic point of view, as well as the juridical and spiritual.”
Among the proposals to emerge from the conference, the Holy Father praised that of “the laudable commitment to mobilise citizens in support of the initiative for ‘family-friendly fiscal policy’,” which aims to urge “governments to promote family-related policies that give parents a real possibility of having children and bringing them up in the family”.
“For believers, the family – cell of communion at the very foundations of society – is like a ‘small domestic church’ called to reveal God’s love to the world,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict then urged the family association representatives: “Help families to be a visible sign of this truth, to defend the values which are written in human nature itself and which are therefore common to all humanity: life, the family and education.
“These are not principles deriving from a confession of faith, but from the application of a justice respectful of the rights of each human being.
“This is your mission, dear Christian families.”