Voices Online Edition
Volume XVIII, No. 1
The Christian Family:
Good News for the Third Millennium
Conclusions of the Theological-Pastoral Congress of Fourth World Meeting of Families
The Fourth World Meeting of Families, themed "The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millennium", took place January 22-24, 2003. The meeting was held in the Philippines, the only Catholic country in Asia -- 84% of its estimated population of more than 84 million is Catholic - in what has been dubbed by the Holy Father as the Asian Millennium:
With the Church throughout the world, the Church in Asia will cross the threshold of the Third Christian Millennium marveling at all that God has worked from those beginnings until now, and strong in the knowledge that "just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium, a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent".
- Ecclesia in Asia (1999)
The meeting drew 5,596 delegates from 64 countries in five continents, including five cardinals, 88 bishops, 481 priests, 368 men and women religious, and more than 4,000 lay people -- including a baby girl born on the first day of the meeting. Nearly one million people took part in the closing ceremonies in Luneta Park in Manila.
Gathered in Manila to celebrate the Fourth World Meeting of Families, we, the participants in the Pastoral Theological Congress preceding the Meeting, first salute our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, the Pope of the Family, who presided over the previous Meetings in Rome and Rio de Janeiro.
He has sent another world leader in the struggle for the family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, as his personal Legate to this World Meeting.
We celebrate the Christian family as "Good News for the Third Millennium", but where can we find "good news" in the early years of this new Millennium? Confronted by threats of terrorism, war, famine and economic uncertainty, many people live in fear. This fear is often felt in families, but it is here, within the family itself, that we can find the "good news" of a love that overcomes fear and brings hope to the world.
We affirm that the Christian family itself is a great bearer of the Good News of Jesus Christ for this Millennium. It is truly an agent of Evangelization (cf. Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 52). Moreover, more than just simply an object of the Church's pastoral care, the Christian family is also one of the Church's most effective agents of Evangelization (cf. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in Asia, 46).
The hope of Christ can offer a vision for the future as it shines through the family in specific areas.
1. Good news for life
As the sanctuary of life, the family says "yes" to life. Every person and every family through which life passes (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 46) are simply stewards of life and have the responsibility to protect and promote it from the beginning to the end. In the family those whose lives are threatened find comfort, security and loving care. Thus families are witnesses of Christ and missionaries of love and life (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 54).
Once again, we affirm the inalienable right to life of all human beings. We call on all politicians to defend human life from its beginning at conception until natural death. We call on legislators in particular to respond positively to the recent Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on their responsibilities as Christians and citizens. Anti-life practices such as abortion, embryo experimentation, cloning and euthanasia cannot be tolerated in any free pro-family society.
2. Good news for society
A just society depends on the well-being of its basic community, its vital living cell, the family. However, grave ethical and social problems afflict many families today. Our major concerns are:
*families divided and weakened when members are forced to emigrate for work;
*the plague of divorce;
*the promotion of same sex "marriages", undermining the family based on marriage between a man and a woman;
*widespread "de facto" unions;
*an anti-family feminist ideology;
*negative effects of globalization, particularly in developing countries;
*drug and alcohol abuse;
*the spread of AIDS and the resurgence of other diseases.
The vision of a pro-family society challenges families themselves to take the initiative, to struggle for social policies and legislation that promote and protect the rights of the family, a just distribution of resources and support for the most vulnerable and helpless.
3. Good news for the poor
We affirm our solidarity with poor families. So often it is poor families who reveal the incredible resilience and energies of the family facing challenges (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 43).
Educating to responsible parenthood, with the support of adequate economic and legislative measures, makes an effective contribution to the fight against poverty, which too often is demeaning. We firmly reject the practice of population control, whether exercised by international, government or private agencies. Poor families bear the brunt of population control programs and policies, which absorb vast sums of money in promoting abortion, sterilization and contraception.
We call on governments to focus on concrete policies that favor poor families in terms of health, education, agrarian reform, employment and housing.
We propose as an authentic alternative to a birth control that does not correspond to the truth about man and woman the natural regulation of fertility, which not only helps couples space births in a morally sound and healthy way, but brings husband and wife together in mutual sharing and equality.
4. Good news for youth
Children and young people have come together to celebrate and deepen their faith in a Sons and Daughters Congress, running parallel to this Theological-Pastoral Congress. With joy we recognize their vital role as integral members of our families and active members of the living Church.
We reaffirm the rights and dignity of all children. They should never be neglected and abandoned on the streets. They should be protected, especially when threatened by exploitation through prostitution, pornography, child-labor, drug trafficking, homosexual adoption and immoral "sex education". A new threat to children is posed by the misuse of the Internet, when this intrudes into family life and undermines the rights and duties of parents.
Children are the "crown of marriage", the real wealth of humanity. The natural place for their education is the family. It is here, in the community of life and love, that they are formed as members of Christ's Church. It is here that, honoring and loving their parents, they can enrich the lives of all members of the wider family.
5. Good news for the world
Bearing the good news of Jesus Christ, the Christian family reaches out to all peoples. It is the place "where the truth of the Gospel is the rule of life and the gift which family members bring to the wider community" (Ecclesia in Asia, 46).
The family carries out its mission in many different cultures around the earth, but the future of humanity always passes through the family. Therefore, we call for more creative strategies for Evangelization, especially amidst rapid cultural changes. We underline the need to respect the cultures of indigenous peoples whose family values often prepare the way for the word of God.
Each domestic church is a citadel of faith, not only in secularized societies, but also in countries where Christians still suffer for their faith. We express our solidarity with persecuted Christian families where religious freedom is ignored or violated by violence and discrimination.
The family is called to be a community of peace. We express our solidarity with families in nations and regions that are threatened by war, where families face the prospect of becoming innocent victims of conflict.
6. Good news for the Church
As the smallest Christian community, the "domestic church" is the living cell of the whole Church, offering a vision for Evangelization and spiritual growth within the Church.
We call on all responsible for pastoral planning to make the family their priority, to shape the pastoral vision and plan of each diocese and parish around the family. The family emerges, not merely as a passive subject of Evangelization and care, but as an active subject, indeed an agent, in the mission of Christ in His Church.
The family needs to recover the sense of being a "mystery". A deeper spirituality of the family is derived from the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist. Nourished by the Word, families are drawn into the Paschal Mystery of Christ's sacrifice and banquet. Here the self-giving love of Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, motivates nuptial and family love.
We recognize and welcome the role played by the new religious movements, characterized by their commitment to the family. Ablaze with the power of the Holy Spirit, with their distinctive spiritualities, the movements can show us how to evangelize in and through the family.
The Catholic family reaches out to other Christians and members of other religions. The unity of the family can inspire the ecumenical journey of Christian unity and inter-religious dialogue. We affirm the need for more practical cooperation between Christians and people of good will to meet challenges faced by all families. We have been honored by the presence of representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communions who took part in this World Meeting, sharing with us the same vision of the Christian family as the bearer of good news.
Finally we thank the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, for his leadership and encouragement. We thank the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, who has welcomed everyone here, and the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines for organizing this World Meeting.
By living in unity and through self-giving love, Christian families reflect God, the Most Holy Trinity. It was in a family that the Son took flesh in our world, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Contemplating this mystery, we confidently entrust all our families to the gentle protection of Mary, Queen of the Family and Saint Joseph her spouse. We pray that the Good News of Jesus Christ, which Christian families spread by witness and word, may drive away fear and bring hope to this world.
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