.- Against the backdrop of an effort to recognize “gay marriage” in France, Pope Benedict XVI told a group of French bishops that the truth about marriage and the family is vital to society and must be promoted in bold and creative ways.
He said marriage and the family “must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is in fact injurious to human coexistence as such.”
The family is the “foundation of social life” but it is “threatened in many places by a faulty conception of human nature,” the Pope said Sept. 21. The defense of the family and of human life promotes “values that allow the full development of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.” It is “not at all backward-looking but prophetic.”
His remarks came in his meeting with the first group of French bishops to make an ad limina visit in five years. Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux et Bazes, the president of the French bishops’ conference, led the group from western France.
The French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said his government will introduce a bill this coming October to recognize same-sex “marriages” and to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. His Socialist Party’s control of parliament means the bill’s passage is more likely.
President François Hollande promised to push the issue during his campaign. Many French religious authorities oppose redefining marriage, as does former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Pope Benedict’s other remarks praised France’s “long spiritual and missionary tradition.”
“The challenges of a widely secularized society now call us courageously and optimistically to seek a bold and creative response, by presenting the permanent newness of the Gospel,” he told the bishops.
He encouraged each bishop to be a “good shepherd” toward the Catholic faithful and his priests. He noted the scarcity of “workers for the gospel” and urged good formation for seminarians and prayers for vocations.
Responses to any pastoral problems, he said, should not focus only on organizational matters that can become “self-referential.” Rather, evangelization must begin with “an encounter with the Lord in a dialogue established in prayer.”
He stressed the need to meet the expectations of younger generations who need “proper catechesis so that they might find their place within the community of believers.”
Pope Benedict also referenced St. Joan of Arc – one of France’s patrons – describing her as “a model of secular sanctity in the service of the common good.” He said that the link “between mystical experience and political mission” is “one of the most original features of her holiness.”