Words From The Holy Father



I give thanks to God for having permitted me to be here again, families of all the world, to reaffirm solemnly that you are the hope of humanity.

The 1st World Meeting of the Families happened in Rome, in 1994. The following meeting comes to a close today in Rio de Janeiro. I cordially thank the invitation of Eugenio Cardinal Araujo de Sales, as well as all the Brazilian Bishops and authorities that collaborated to the great success of this event. We have come here from various countries and various churches, not only from Brazil and Latin America, but from all continents, together to raise to God this prayer: "Lord, bless us during all our lives".

In effect, the family is this particular, yet fundamental community of love and life, upon which all other communities and societies are based. That is why, by invoking the Most High's blessings upon families, we pray together for all those societies that we represent here. We pray for the future of nations and of states, as well as for the future of the Church and the world.

Truly, through families, all human existence is oriented toward the future. In it Man comes into the world, grow and matures. In it, he comes an ever more responsible citizen of his country, and an ever more conscience member of the Church. The family is also the first and fundamental environment, where each Man discerns and realizes his own human and Christian vocation. Thus, the family is a community that cannot be substituted by any other. This is what can be gleaned from the readings of today's liturgy.

Representatives of the Jewish Orthodoxy, the Pharisees, come before the Messiah to ask him whether it is licit for a husband to divorce his wife. Christ, in his part, asks them what it was that Moses had ordained. They replied that Moses had allowed them to write out a bill of divorce and send her away. But Christ tells them: "It was because of the hardness of your heart that Moses wrote this rule. However, since the beginning of creation, God made man and woman. That is why, a man shall leave his father and mother and the two will become one flesh. Thus, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, let no one separate what God has united.

Christ refers himself to the beginning. This beginning is contained in the Book of Genesis, where we find the description of the creation of man. As we read in the first chapter of this book, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27) and said: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Genesis 1:28) According to the second account of creation, which is in the first reading of today's liturgy, states, woman was created from man. Thus says Scripture: "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ' This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh' she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." (Genesis 2:21-24)

The language of this reading uses anthropological categories of the ancient environment, but it is of an extraordinary depth: it expresses the essential truths in a truly admirable way. All that was afterwards discovered by human reflection and scientific knowledge, did nothing more than make explicit that which was already evident there at the beginning.

The Book of Genesis show, [ more than anything else], the cosmic dimension of creation. The appearance of man occurs within the immense horizon of the creation of the cosmos; it is not be chance that this takes place on the last day of creation. Man enters the work of the Creator at the moment in which all the conditions necessary for his existence were in place. Man is one of the visible creatures; however, it is only of him that it is said in Scriptures, that he was created in the image and likeness of God. "This admirable union of body and spirit is a decisive innovation in the process of creation. With the human being, all the magnificence of visible creation is opened to the spiritual dimension. The intellect, will, knowledge, and love - all this enters the visible universe at the very moment of the creation of Man. From the beginning, it enters specifically manifesting the co-penetration of bodily (corporal) and spiritual life. Thus, man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, becoming one flesh. But this marital union is enrooted simultaneously in knowledge and love, that is, in the spiritual dimension.

The Book of Genesis speaks of all this in a language that is, at one and the same time, marvelously simple and complex. Man and woman, called by their very vocation to live in the process of cosmic creation, having in themselves the very capacity to procreate in collaboration with God, who directly creates the soul of each new human being. Through mutual knowledge and love, and at the same time through corporal union, they will call into existence beings like unto them, and like unto them, made "in the image and likeness of God." They will give life to their own children, as they themselves received it from their own parents. This is the truth, at the same time simple and great, about the family, as it appears in the pages of the Book of Genesis and the Gospel. In the plan of God, marriage-indissoluble marriage-is the fundamental basis of a healthy and responsible family.

With brief an incisive strokes, Christ describes in the Gospel the original design of God, the Creator. This is also done in the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed in the Second Reading: "For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Hebrews 2:10-11) The creation of Man has its root in the Eternal Word of God. All that God called into existence, He did so through the action of the Word, the Eternal Son, through whom all things were made. Man was also created through the Word, and was created male and female. The marital alliance has its origin in the Eternal Word of God. In Him, the family was created. In Him the family is eternally thought of by God, imagined and realized. Through Christ, it is sanctified and receives its sacramental character.

The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the sanctification of marriage, as that of any human reality, was obtained at the price of Christ's Passion and Cross. He is manifested here as the new Adam. If it is true that in order of matter we are all descendent of Adam, in the order of grace and sanctification we all proceed from Christ. The sanctification of the family has its source in the sacramental character of matrimony.

Pope with girl

He Who sanctifies - that is, Christ - and all those who are to be sanctified - you, fathers and mothers, you, families - present yourselves united before God the Father with the ardent petition that He bless what he has realized in you through the Sacrament of Matrimony. And in this prayer all couples and families that live on the face of the earth. God, the only creator of the universe, is, in effect the fount of life and sanctity.

Parents and families throughout the world, allow me to say this: God is calling you to sanctity! He himself chose us "through Jesus Christ, before the world began - says St. Paul - so that we may be holy in His sight. (Ephesians 1:4) He is madly in love with you. He desires your happiness, but he wants you to combine fidelity to the search of happiness, for one cannot exist without the other. Do not allow a hedonistic mentality, ambition, and selfishness to enter your homes. Be generous with God. I cannot omit to remind you, once again, that the family is at "the service of the Church and of society in its being and doing, while being an intimate community of life and love." Mutual self-giving blessed by God, rooted by faith, hope and charity, will allow each spouse to reach perfection and mutual sanctification. In other words, it will serve as a sanctifying nucleus of the family itself, and of the expansion of the work of evangelization in all Christian homes.

Dear brothers and sisters, what a great task lies ahead of you! Be bearers of peace and joy in the bosom of your home; grace elevates and perfects love, and with it, brings about those indispensable family virtues: humility, the spirit of service and sacrifice, affection between parents and children, respect, and mutual understanding. And, since the good by nature expands and spreads itself I hope that your adhesion to the pastoral of the family be, in the measure that it is possible, an encouragement to generous irradiation of the gift which is in you, firstly among children, and then of the couples - perhaps parents and friends - who are currently away from God or are passing through moment of doubt or incomprehension. As we progress along the way to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I invite all of you who hear me to this re-energizing of faith and Christian witness, so that, with the grace of God, there may be a true conversion and personal renewal in the bosom of families of the whole world. May the spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth reign in all Christian homes!

Families of Brazil, Latin America, and of the whole world, the Pope, the Church depend on you. Have trust. God is with you!




Feast of the Holy Family, December 29, 1996

The Pope’s Sunday Angelus Address,  14 September 97.


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