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Voices Online Edition
Advent 2000, Volume XV, No. 4

Pope John Paul II to Jubilee for Families
"I carried you all in my heart"

"I carried you all in my heart, fervently praying for you to the Holy Family, the sublime model of all families", Pope John Paul II told thousands of families gathered in St. Peter's Square on Saturday evening, October 14, in celebration of the Jubilee for Families. The Holy Father referred to his visit this Jubilee Year to the House at Nazareth, "the place where the Word became flesh".

It is precisely the spiritual atmosphere of the House at Nazareth that we want to relive this evening. The great space where we are gathered, between the basilica and Bernini's colonnade, is like a house for us, a great, open-air house. Having gathered as a true family, "one heart and one soul" (cf. Acts 4:32), we can sense and make our own the sweet and intimate savor of that humble home, where Mary and Joseph lived praying and working, and Jesus "was obedient to them" (Lk 2:51), gradually taking part in their common life.

The Jubilee celebration was sponsored by the Pontifical Council on the Family and its president, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo.

The pope addressed the theme of the Jubilee for Families, "Children: Springtime of the Family and Society".

Do not children themselves in a way continually "examine" their parents? They do so not only with their frequent "whys?", but with their very faces, sometimes smiling, sometimes misty with sadness. It is as if a question were inscribed in their whole existence, a question which is expressed in the most varied ways, even in their whims, and which we could put into questions like these: Mama, papa, do you love me? Am I really a gift for you? Do you accept me for what I am? Do you always try to do what is really best for me?

These questions perhaps are asked more with their eyes than in words, but they hold parents to their great responsibility and are in some way an echo of God's voice for them.

Children must be able to count on both parents, the Holy Father stressed, observing that the situation of children in the world today is not what it should be especially in prosperous countries where "bringing children into the world has become a decision taken with great hesitation, well beyond that prudence which is necessarily required for responsible procreation". He said:

The situation of children is really a challenge for society as a whole, a challenge posed directly to families. No one knows as you do, dear parents, how essential it is for children to be able to count on you, on both of you fathers and mothers in the complementarily of your gifts. No, it is not a step forward for civilized society to support trends that obscure this elementary truth and even demand to be legally recognized.

Are children not already too heavily penalized by the scourge of divorce? How sad it is for a child to have to divide his love between parents in conflict! So many children will always bear the psychological scar of the suffering that their parents' separation caused them.

As for the many broken families, the Church feels called not to express a harsh, detached judgment, but rather to shed the light of God's word, accompanied by the witness of his mercy, on the depths of so many human tragedies. This is the spirit in which the pastoral care of the family must also address the situation of divorced and remarried believers. They are not excluded from the community; they are invited, instead, to share in its life, undertaking a journey of growth in the spirit of what the Gospel requires. The Church, while not concealing from them the truth about the objective moral disorder of their situation and the resulting consequences for sacramental practice, wishes to show them all her maternal closeness.

Be certain of this, Christian spouses: the sacrament of Matrimony assures you of the necessary grace to persevere in the mutual love that your children need as much as bread.

Today you are called to question yourselves about this profound communion of love between you, as you ask for an abundance of Jubilee mercy.

The good of the child must always be given priority, the pope said, and noted the danger to children posed by defective attitudes common in society today. In particular he says,"[t]he tendency to use morally unacceptable reproductive practices reveals the absurd mentality of a 'right to a child', which has replaced the due recognition of the 'right of a child' to be born and later to grow in a fully human way".

The Holy Father calls on "all people of good will" to help change the culture which undermines the integrity of families.

Dear friends, let us commit all our forces to defending the value of the family and respect for human life from the moment of conception. These are values which belong to the basic "grammar" of dialogue and human coexistence among peoples. I fervently hope that governments and national parliaments, international organizations and, in particular, the United Nations Organization will not lose sight of this truth. I ask all people of good will who believe in these values to join forces effectively so that the latter may prevail in daily life, in cultural trends and in the mass media, in political decisions and the laws of nations.

He concluded his message by exhorting mothers and fathers to "cooperate with the creator in the transmission of life".

"Together proclaim the value of the family and of life. Without these values, there is no future worthy of man"!

[See related story on the new document on "de facto" unions issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family.]

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