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Sunday, May 1, 2011

John Paul II to the Filipino people on the sanctity of life, part 4: Defend family values!

From the speech of John Paul II to the Filipino bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome, November 19, 1990:

Another theme of my conversations with previous groups of your brother Bishops has been the grave threats to the traditional values of Filipino society, about which you yourselves have issued frequent statements and Pastoral Letters. This loss of values has become evident in an increase of personal and social turmoil which, in turn, can often be traced to the serious difficulties being experienced by the family. Your visit enables me to share your profound pastoral concern for the state of the family and to confirm you in your desire to strengthen and defend it as the first and vital cell of a just and harmonious society.

A careful meditation on the real state of married love and family life reveals something of the ineffable mystery of how God's grace takes root and manifests its power in the life of a people. I referred to this in the Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio", when I wrote that: "the central word of Revelation, 'God loves his people', is likewise proclaimed through the living and concrete word whereby a man and a woman express their conjugal love. Their bond of love becomes the image and the symbol of the covenant which unites God and his people. And the same sin which can harm the conjugal covenant becomes an image of the infidelity of the people to their God..." (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 12). Clearly, the more faithfully the sacramental grace of marriage is preserved and allowed to bear fruit, the more fully couples and families, and hence society, will reflect God's loving presence in their midst.

Filipino society has been truly blessed by God with a keen sense of the family. Innumerable benefits have flowed from the warmth of human relations, the goodness and effective solidarity with others generated by a tradition of strong family life. Today, the Church is called to defend this precious heritage, especially because of the difficult circumstances of so many families in your midst. Your pastoral response to present difficulties will spring from the evangelical love that animates your ministry.

To love the family means to appreciate and foster its values and capabilities. It means to identify the dangers and the evils that menace it, in order to overcome them. It means endeavoring to create for the family an environment favorable for its development. It is an eminent form of love to give back to the Christian family its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace, and in the mission that God has entrusted to it (Cf. ibid., 86).

Because the well-being of the civil community depends on the strength of its families, it is to be hoped that, alongside the Church, a great coalition of institutions, including the Government, schools and the communications media, will support family life and "do everything possible to ensure that families have all those aids — economic, social, educational, political and cultural assistance — that they need in order to face all their responsibilities in a human way" (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 45).

4. Recently you published a Pastoral Letter regarding responsible parenthood. The Church's primary and overriding concern in considering the acceleration or deceleration of population growth is that God's will for the person and for the family be fully respected; that is, that everything be done within the parameters of freedom of conscience, the responsible decision of couples, and the principles of sexual and family morality. You are conscious of your grave duty to defend these principles and to proclaim and promote the moral law regarding the regulation of population. On the pastoral level, it is important that your teaching in this delicate area be clearly and adequately communicated to your priests, so that they in turn may enlighten married couples regarding their rights and duties. Catholics should not hesitate to defend publicly the Church's teaching about the primary role of married couples and parents in deciding matters regarding the generous acceptance of children. By so doing they are upholding the fundamental values of freedom and responsibility for the whole of society.

At the heart of the Church's teaching on marriage and procreation, as well as at the heart of her response to the population problem, is her immense confidence in the capability of married couples themselves to achieve a love that is fully mature and responsive to the truth of God's plan for them. During my visit to Burundi last September, I again emphasized the primary responsibility of parents in regard to decisions about their family: "it is up to them to live as responsible and generous parents, to be open to having the children whom they desire to have and whom they feel they are able to raise. That presupposes the spouses' great respect for one another, self-control in their life of intimacy, a love which preserves a constant respect for woman in her capacity for being a mother" (John Paul II, Homily at the Mass for the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Gitega in Burundi, September 6,1990). The Church has a "good news" to proclaim regarding marriage and the family, a teaching of hope and true love of which the world has great need.

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