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Pope John Paul II on Pastoral Care of the Family

Excerpt from the discourse of the Holy Father to the participants in the Eighth Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family - 1992

During the last several decades, many Christian couples have more keenly felt the need and duty to discover the greatness of the vocation to which they have been called by their marriage, as well as the riches of their marvelous mission for the good of society and the Church as well.... It is now fitting to reconsider the pastoral care of the family and to incorporate training for it in a more structured and concrete way within the cycle of priestly training.

The renewal of the life of the Christian faithful promoted by the Council depends to a great extent on the apostolic zeal of the Lord's ministers. Yet, within the family context, these energies are multiplied for the more rapid coming of God's Kingdom among us. When spouses generously live out their love, they can bear authentic witness to the Good News, because they make their daily life an instrument of the apostolate and the setting for the initial proclamation of the Word of God to their children.

It is necessary for priestly training to proceed from a meditative knowledge of the mystery of Christ, and to make progress in it. Priestly intervention in the pastoral care of the family is rooted in a personally assimilated knowledge of God's plan revealed in Jesus Christ, and it presupposes an authentic understanding of the nature of the Church. The teaching about marriage and the family which the priest has the duty of passing on is not merely speculative in nature; it also translates the wisdom through which the ordinary help of the Holy Spirit nourishes the faithful for their growth within the Church.

This is the perspective of the Magisterium's teaching, which was especially expressed for our contemporaries in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae and the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio; it is necessary to help, with the truth of the heart, the truth which is already present within the conjugal relationship of the man and woman. Thus, for example, to help the couple discover that "what the Church teaches, about responsible procreation is nothing but the Creator's original plan impressed in the humanity of the man and woman who marry, and which the Redeemer came to re-establish." (1 March 1984, n. 2)

All of you who have received the gift of marital love must know that through the generosity of your mutual love and that of your children, the union of Christ and His Church bears fruit in your lives. You are for your pastors the shining and living witnesses of the Christian mystery; you sustain them so that they may be the untiring witnesses to Christ's redemptive strength, and that they may know how to counsel, with patience and charity, families who confide their difficulties to them.

The Sacraments of Matrimony and Christian priesthood: these are two sacraments which contribute to the good of the Church and society; two modes of participating in Christ's mystery which mutually strengthen one another at the heart of Christian existence, faithful to the charism proper to each, and for the good of all God's People.

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