In a traditional New Year’s gathering, Pope Benedict today met with civic leaders from around Rome, to whom he strongly stressed the importance of caring for the moral institution of marriage, and for families.
The Pope met with Piero Marrazzo, president of the regional administration of Lazio, Italy; Walter Veltroni, mayor of the city of Rome; and Enrico Gasbarra, president of Rome’s provincial administration.
In his message, the Holy Father pointed out how the people of both Rome and Lazio had poured out their affection for the late John Paul II during his final days and weeks and also after his death.
He also thanked local and civil authorities for their "great contribution" to the control and organization of the millions of pilgrims last spring who came to Rome "to pay their final homage to the lamented Pontiff, and on the occasion of my own election to the See of Peter."
That "profound spiritual experience of faith and of prayer, of brotherhood and of rediscovery of the things that make our lives worthwhile and rich in meaning," the Pope said, must also bear fruit within "the civil community, its duties and its multiple responsibilities and relationships."
Benedict then went on to address the central focus if his message, which was the family, which, for the past three years has been the central focus of pastoral activities in the diocese of Rome.
This focus was chosen, he said, "in order to help [the family] face the reasons behind the crises and distrust present in our own culture, giving it a clearer and firmer awareness of its own nature and tasks."
The Holy Father then noted his own words during a congress of the diocese of Rome, last June, in which he stressed that "marriage and the family are not in fact a chance sociological construction, the product of particular historical and financial situations.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “the question of the right relationship between man and woman is rooted in the essential core of the human being and it is only by starting from here that its response can be found.”
He went on: “Marriage as an institution is thus not an undue interference of society or of authority. The external imposition of form on the most private reality of life is instead an intrinsic requirement of the covenant of conjugal love."
"What we are talking about here”, the Pope explained, “are not norms particular to Catholic morals, but elementary truths that concern our shared humanity.”
“To respect them”, he said, “is essential for the good of the individual and of society. These truths, then, appeal both to your responsibility as public administrators and to your normative duties."
Marriage, elderly and the unborn
Moving on to concrete recommendations, Benedict also stressed the need to support young couples in forming their own families and in educating their children.
Noting the sometimes overwhelming cost of rent and of nursery schools, he said, "It is a grave error to obscure the value and the functions of the legitimate family based on marriage, attributing to other forms of union inappropriate forms of legal recognition, for which there is no real social need."
He also asked that attention be given to "the protection of nascent human life," that there be no lack of "concrete assistance" to pregnant women experiencing difficulties, and that there be no introduction of drugs "that hide in one way or another the severity of abortion as a choice against life.”
The Pope then highlighted proper care and respect for the elderly saying, “In an aging society help for the elderly and all the complex problems concerning the health care of citizens becomes ever more important."
Benedict encouraging the local leaders to continue with efforts being made in these matters and said that "continuous scientific and technological developments in the field of healthcare and the commitment to contain costs should be promoted while maintaining firm the principle of the central importance of the sick person."
In the face what he called "cases of psychological suffering and illness," the Pope stressed the importance of giving "adequate help to families who often find themselves having to face extremely difficult situations."
He concluded his time with the civil authorities by expressing his satisfaction at the "growth over these years of various forms of collaboration between ecclesial volunteer organizations and the public administration of Rome city, province and region in the work of alleviating old and new forms of poverty which, unfortunately, afflict a large part of the population, especially many immigrants."