The president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard, said this week the Church’s vision of family and marriage is not “a merely confessional one and is not aimed only at Catholics. We bear a vision of the person and of marriage that applies to all mankind.”
Cardinal Ricard, who is also vice president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, made his comments during the Plenary Assembly of the Council which concluded Sunday in Fatima, Portugal.
“The first objective of any marriage and family ministry is to help couples and families be open to the gift of God and to embrace the evangelical vision of the couple and family life. It is the experience of being personally loved by God, of being forgiven and sustained by his own fidelity which is the bases of conjugal and family love,” the cardinal explained.
He noted that in Europe “the Church does much in the field of marriage preparation and support for couples, of psychological help for women considering abortion, and of support for widowers and the divorced. The testimony of couples themselves in this area is undeniable,” he said.
In speaking about preparation for the sacrament of marriage, the French cardinal emphasized that the formation of many young couples “who have little contact with the parish can be transformed into a place of initial evangelization, which makes it a much bigger investment than just preparing for a simple celebration.”
Cardinal Ricard also stressed that it is the “duty of the Church and of all Christians to promote and defend the true good of man, insist on the unity of the institution of the family, on its stability and fidelity, on the right of the child to have a father and a mother, on the rejection of euthanasia and abortion.”
“It’s not only about intervening publicly but also about forming consciences. Family ministry should have a missionary dimension. Christian families should give witness to the vision of man of which they are bearers and of the love which allows him to live,” the cardinal said.
He stressed that family ministry must be a priority in order to respond to the challenges of today’s world, such as the decrease in the number of marriages, the increase in number of non-married couples living together, divorce and the search “for creating the perfect child.”
He noted that such problems are in part a result of part of the population straying from the Christian faith and church membership, as well as because of the influence of homosexual lobbyists and their efforts to legalize adoption by gay couples.