The Holy Father exhorted the American bishops to build towards a stronger culture of marriage and family, insisting that steps be taken towards the strong education of Catholics in the sacramental dimension of matrimony. He addressed his comments on Saturday to bishops from the United States provinces of San Antonio and Oklahoma City who are concluding their “ad limina” visit.
“Family life is sanctified in the joining of man and woman in the sacramental institution of holy matrimony,” he said. “Many today have a clear understanding of the secular nature of marriage, which includes the rights and responsibilities modern societies hold as determining factors for a marital contract. There are nevertheless some who appear to lack a proper understanding of the intrinsically religious dimension of this covenant.”
The Holy Father remarked that “modern society rarely pays heed to the permanent nature of marriage.” He asked that “the Church seek to offer better pre-marital instruction aimed at forming couples in this vocation and insist that her Catholic schools and religious education programs guarantee that young people, many of whom are from broken families themselves, are educated from a very early age in the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of matrimony.”
“The communion of love present in family life serves as a model of the relationships which must exist in Christ’s family, the Church,” the Pope added. “The family is placed at the service of the building up of the Kingdom of God in history” and the Church’s duty is to assist it, especially parents as “the main catechists in the family.” And, he said, the Church must “share the hurts and struggles of parents and families, as well as their joys.”
“Like a family, the Church is a place where its members feel free to bring their sufferings, knowing that Christ’s presence in the prayer of His people is the greatest source of healing.” Thus, the Church must maintain an active “family ministry and especially in those areas which reach out to youth and young adults. Young people, faced with a secular culture which promotes instant gratification and selfishness over the virtues of self-control and generosity, need the Church’s support and guidance.”
John Paul II noted that “as in any family, the Church’s internal harmony can at times be challenged by a lack of charity and the presence of conflict among her members. This can lead to the formation of factions within the Church which often become so concerned with their special interests that they lose sight of the unity and solidarity which are the foundations of ecclesial life and the sources of communion in the family of God. To address this worrisome phenomenon Bishops are charged to act with fatherly solicitude as men of communion to ensure that their particular Churches act as families, so that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
In concluding, he noted that the United States, whose patroness is Mary Immaculate, is marking the150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in a special way. Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma on December 8, 1954.