.- Pope John Paul II stressed today that “recognizing the centrality of the family in God’s plan for man and therefore, for the life of the Church and of society, is a task, that can never be relinquished.”
The Holy Father addressed a message to the pastors of the Diocese of Rome, following a tradition at the beginning of Lent. The text says that “marriage and family cannot, be considered a simple product of historical circumstances, or a superstructure imposed on human love from the outside. On the contrary, they are an interior demand of this love so that it may be carried out in the truth and fullness of self-giving.”
“When creating man and woman in His image,” he continued, God inscribed in them a vocation, “and therefore, the capacity and responsibility for love and communion. This vocation can be carried out in two specific ways: marriage and virginity,” he explained.
Unity, indissolubility, and openness to life, characteristics of the conjugal union, “which today,” he said, “are frequently misunderstood and rejected, are necessary so that it may be an authentic pact of love.”
“Precisely in this way, the bond that unites man and woman becomes an image and symbol of the alliance between God and His people. Therefore, marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament, effective sign of grace and salvation,” the Pope told.
The Holy Father asked the priests to never tire of “proposing, announcing and bearing witness to the great truth of love and Christian marriage.” After emphasizing the “fundamental and irreplaceable role of the family in the life of the Church and of civil society,” he indicated that “the pastoral care of priests is necessary” in order to sustain Christian families.
“Do not be afraid,” he added, “to make efforts for families, to dedicate to them your time and energy, the spiritual talents that the Lord gave you. Be for them caring and trustworthy friends in addition to pastors and teachers. Accompany and sustain them in prayer, propose the Gospel of marriage and the family to them with truth and love, without reservations or arbitrary interpretations.”
“Be close to them spiritually in the trials that life often holds, helping them to understand that the Church is always their mother as well as their teacher. And teach young people to understand and appreciate the real meaning of love and to prepare themselves to form authentic Christian families,” he said.
John Paul II also stressed that “the misguided and often aberrant behaviour that is publicly proposed, and also endorsed and exalted, and daily contact with the difficulties and crises of many families can cause us to be tempted to distrust and resignation.”
“We must overcome this temptation with God’s help. Today the Holy Spirit’s action is not weaker. Therefore, the greater the difficulties, the stronger our hope must be in the present and future of the family, and the more generous and passionate our priestly service to families must be,” he concluded.