The First European Catholic-Orthodox Forum has produced a document on the nature of the family as a "good for humanity." Calling the family "established by God as a union between man and woman," the forum describes the family as a "unity of life-giving love, an indissoluble relationship, open to life."
Explaining teachings on the family common to both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, the joint document discusses the family as part of God’s plan for man and the "deep crisis of vision" threatening its place in modern societies.
Thirty delegates from the Orthodox Churches, Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, and the Vatican met over the past month at Trent in Italy. Organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), it is hoped that the First Catholic-Orthodox Forum will advance closer ties and cooperation between the two Churches, LifeSiteNews.com reports.
"The aim above all is to start clear and effective communication between our churches so that we are aware that we face the same challenges (secularism, consumerism, atheism, etc.)," said Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfejev. "These are themes which all our churches face individually and instead it is important to tackle them together."
The forum’s first joint document is titled "The Family: A Good for Humanity."
Cardinal Peter Erdõ explained that the forum chose the theme of the family "because it is a fundamental good for the whole of society" and because it is threatened by "an egoistic, relativistic culture focused exclusively on temporary material well-being."
"In this context, we feel the urgency to proclaim the Gospel of the family and we are convinced of the need to witness together our concern and the source of our hope," he continued, according to LifeSiteNews.com.
The Catholic-Orthodox joint document, dated December 14, begins with theological reflection on marriage and the family.
The Orthodox section calls marriage an "eternal union of spouses" in which they "become a source of the continuation of the human race and express chaste love, total community and the ‘unity of souls and bodies’ of the spouses." Marital relations are "pure and worthy according to God’s plan," and acts which distort them, such as fornication, adultery, or homosexual relations, should be rejected.
The Catholic section discusses the sacramental nature of Christian marriage, saying "Marital love between the spouses is the basis of the family, the first personal communion into which a human being is born. It must be promoted by society as its fundamental cell." The sacrament requires "fidelity unto death" and recognizes the "inseparable link" between the unitive and procreative aspects of married love.
Catholics likewise rejected distortions of marriage listed by the Orthodox.
Other common points of agreement named in the document include faithfulness to God’s commandment to "Be fruitful and multiply" through the "unique moral environment" of the family.
"The human being is the only one created in the image and likeness of God and this constitutes his particular dignity," the document states. "We do not give life to ourselves, nor are parents the sole source of human life, since divine intervention is necessary. The sacredness of human life from conception to natural death should be fully respected."
Noting the career and financial responsibilities presently placed upon both men and women, the document laments the lack of a family wage and the devaluing of motherhood as a personal vocation.
Agreeing that parents are the first educators of their children, the Catholic-Orthodox forum says: "Parents are to be the first witnesses of the Gospel. In the family life we learn the meaning of faith as the true light that guides a person's life."
The joint document discusses threats to the family such as abortion, sexual ideologies, economic and social pressures, pornography, and demographic decline.
Touching on the economic crisis, the forum notes that "lack of financial funds will pale before the lack of social and human resources that the family brings."
The Catholic-Orthodox forum notes a "deep crisis in the vision of what it is to be human and family life" brought about by the sexual revolution.
This crisis " is a major challenge to the evangelization of the Christian Churches that are attentive to the needs of the heart of the human being and his or her calling to full life in Christ."
To address this crisis, the Catholic and Orthodox authors of the document advise the renewal of our understanding of the family, the defense of the rights of parents to educate their children, and the rejection of systems which subordinate the needs of children and the well-being of the family to economic interests.
Further, they counsel the "moral choice" expressed in the covenant God made with man and fulfilled in Christ. Quoting Deuteronomy 30, they said: "therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
The document concludes on a hopeful note, saying:
"The experience of this Forum has been very positive in building up our fraternity and enabling us to share in our Christian concern for people. On the basis of this good experience, we intend to meet regularly to strengthen our mutual relations and address common challenges facing Europe."
The full version of the statement can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resource.php?n=954