.- The Holy Father met with members of the Pontifical Council for the Family on Monday to mark the start of their 19th Plenary Assembly. In his address, he stressed the importance of providing for the rights of children, including an intact family with a mother and father.
To begin the Plenary Assembly, which follows the theme of "The Rights of Infancy" this year, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the role of the Church in the protection of children, saying that "through the centuries, by the example of Christ, (it) has promoted the protection of the dignity and rights of minors and, in many ways, has taken care of them."
"Unfortunately," he lamented, "in different cases, some of its members, acting in contrast with this commitment, have violated these rights: a behavior that the Church doesn't and will never stop deploring and condemning."
One upcoming example of this commitment will be when the Pope meets with the bishops of Ireland next week to address the sexual and physical abuse recently brought to light by the Ryan Report. The Pope had previously his declared "outrage" and "anguish" upon learning the details of the transgressions and has since accepted the resignation of one of the four bishops who was included in the report for having ignored abuse.
Speaking to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Family on Monday, the Holy Father pointed to the lesson to be learned from Jesus, "who considered children a model to imitate to enter the kingdom of God." The Pope also highlighted Christ's "tenderness and teaching" that call us to nurture “profound respect and care" for children.
"The strong words of Jesus against whomever scandalizes one of these little ones oblige everyone not to lower the level of this respect and love," the Holy Father emphasized.
The Pope added that the greatest help you can offer a child is a family "founded on matrimony between a man and a woman" because "they want to be loved by a mother and a father that love one other."
He stressed the need of children to grow up with both parents, "because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in the education of children and the construction of their personalities and identities."
"It's important then,” he noted, “that everything possible is done to allow them to grow up in a united and stable family," urging married couples to never forget the deep sacramental roots of matrimony and to nurture them with prayer, listening to the Word of God, constant dialogue and forgiveness.
"A troubled family environment, the division of the parents and, in particular, separation through divorce, are not without consequences for children," the Holy Father concluded. "Supporting the family and promoting its true good, its rights, its unity and stability is the best way to protect the rights and the real needs of children."
Pope Benedict also highlighted the important role of the Council for the Family in preparing couples for marriage and raising children according to the teachings of the Church.