.- Pope Benedict has given an emotional plea for all people to recognize the beauty, joy and witness of Christian marriage and family life, and to reject secularism, artificial contraception and co-habitation because they are opposed to true love.
“Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization,” the Pope told over 400,000 pilgrims at Croatia’s first annual family day in the nation’s capital of Zagreb, on June 5.
“In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever,” he said.
The gathering at the city’s Hippodrome racetrack was the highlight of the Pope’s two-day visit to Croatia. In his homily he extolled both the virtues of Catholic family life and flatly rejected many of the modern attacks upon it.
Because of the “difficulties and threats” that Christian families face, Pope Benedict said that they have a “special need of evangelization and support.” He praised them as a decisive resource for education in the faith, for the way families build up the communion of the Church and the ways they contribute to the Church’s missionary presence “in the most diverse situations in life.”
Pope Benedict then turned to those things that destroy family life and happiness-- the first being extreme secularism.
“Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life,” he observed.
“We are called to oppose such a mentality!”
In particular, he urged the young people in the vast congregation to reject co-habitation and artificial contraception. Both, he suggested, undermine true love.
“Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person!”
“Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them!”
He then gave parents practical advice on how to live out the radical Christian ideal he was proposing to them.
“Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist.”
“Introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father.”
The Pope said that while human effort and ingenuity are commendable, it is prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit which are primarily required if a Christian family is to survive and prosper.
“Sometimes it is thought that missionary efficacy depends primarily upon careful planning and its intelligent implementation by means of specific action. Certainly, the Lord asks for our cooperation, but his initiative has to come first, before any response from us: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church, to be invoked and welcomed.”
Ending his homily on that note, Pope Benedict concluded with a prayer. “Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!”
The Pope will now travel onto Zagreb Cathedral where he will pray at the tomb of Cardinal Blessed Aloysius Stepinac. He was the leader of the Catholic Church in Croatia under the occupation of the Nazis during the Second World War and the communists in subsequent years. Cardinal Stepinac died while under house arrest in 1960 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
The Pope will then return to Rome after his brief 33-hour-visit to Croatia, a country where 89 percent of the population is Catholic.