Addressing the hundreds of thousands gathered in Valencia for the Fifth World Meeting of Families, Pope Benedict XVI said that a Christian view of love magnifies the happiness which men and women encounter in marriage.
The Pope, seated on a stage before prelates of the Church, musicians, and scores of families assured the crowd that, “to promote the values of marriage does not stand in the way of fully experiencing the happiness that man and women encounter in their mutual love. Christian faith and ethics are not meant to stifle love, but to make it healthier, stronger and more truly free.”
Benedict spoke forcefully about the, “strength and identity of the family (which is) founded upon marriage and open to the generous gift of life.”
The teaching of the Christian view of marriage, the Holy Father said, “is the best way to counter a widespread hedonism which reduces human relations to banality and empties them of their authentic value and beauty.”
“Human love,” he said, “needs to be purified and to mature if it is to be fully human and the principle of a true and lasting joy (cf. Address at Saint John Lateran, 5 June 2006).”
The role of the family, the Pope said, “is to provide a home where joy and love continue to be fostered in mankind. “The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love. That is why the Church constantly wishes to demonstrate her pastoral concern for this reality, so basic for the human person.”
Benedict told the large crowd that by nature of our creation in the image and likeness of God, “complete human fulfillment only comes about when we make a sincere gift of ourselves to others...This is what (the Church) teaches in her Magisterium: ‘God, who is love and who created man and woman for love, has called them to love. By creating man and woman he called them to an intimate communion of life and love in Marriage. ‘So they are no longer two but one flesh’ (Mt 19:6)’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Compendium, 337)”
Recalling the words of Pope John Paul II, the Pontiff said, that "man has been made in the image and likeness of God not only by his being human, but also by the communion of the persons that man and woman have formed since the beginning. They become the image of God, not so much in their aloneness as in their communion" (Catechesis, 14 November 1979).
This irreplaceable nature of a family serves as an, “intermediate institution between individuals and society,” the pope said.
“The family is itself based primarily on a deep interpersonal relationship between husband and wife, sustained by affection and mutual understanding. To enable this, it receives abundant help from God in the sacrament of Matrimony, which brings with it a true vocation to holiness.”
”Father and mother have said a complete "yes" in the sight of God,” the Pope continued, “which constitutes the basis of the sacrament which joins them together. Likewise, for the inner relationship of the family to be complete, they also need to say a "yes" of acceptance to the children whom they have given birth to or adopted, and each of which has his or her own personality and character. In this way, children will grow up in a climate of acceptance and love, and upon reaching sufficient maturity, will then want to say ‘yes’ in turn to those who gave them life.”
The Pope then spoke of the need for parishes to embrace families, especially those who are distant from other relatives, in order to ensure that families do not feel alone. Parishes, he said, are “called to cooperate as networks of support and a helping hand for the growth of families in faith.”
In this way, families will be able to better attend to one of their chief responsibilities, “the transmission of faith in the family.” The Holy Father pointed out that this responsibility - which is the theme of the World Meeting of Families - “is nicely expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: ‘As a mother who teacher her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith’ (No. 171).”
“To hand down the faith to children, with the help of individuals and institutions like the parish, the school or Catholic associations,” Benedict continued, “is a responsibility which parents cannot overlook, neglect or completely delegate to others. The Christian family is called the domestic church because the family manifests and lives out the communal and familiar nature of the Church as the family of God.”
In addition to passing on the faith and the love of God, the Pope said, “One of the greatest responsibilities of families is that of training free and responsible persons.”
“For this reason,” he said, “the parents need gradually to give their children greater freedom, while remaining for some time the guardians of that freedom. If children see that their parents - and, more generally, all the adults around them - live life with joy and enthusiasm, despite all difficulties, they will themselves develop that profound "joy of life" which can help them to overcome wisely the inevitable obstacles and problems which are part of life.”
Pope also spoke briefly of the importance of Grandparents with in the life of each family. Grandparents, he said, “can be - and so often are - the guarantors of the affection and tenderness which every human being needs to give and receive. They offer little ones the perspective of time; they are memory and richness of families. In no way should they ever be excluded from the family circle. They are a treasure which the younger generation should not be denied, especially when they bear witness to their faith at the approach of death.”
“And so,” the Pope concluded, “I invite government leaders and legislators to reflect on the evident benefits which homes in peace and harmony assure to individuals and the family, the neuralgic center of society, as the Holy See has stated in the Charter of the Rights of the Family. The purpose of laws is the integral good of man, in response to his needs and aspirations. This good is a significant help to society, of which it cannot be deprived, and for peoples a safeguard and a purification.”