MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
1. I heard with joy that the Church in Italy is preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Familiaris consortio with a series of events: they will be a great help to the People of God, for all who are in search of the truth and even for secular society. These are important initiatives; I would like to accompany them with my prayers and deep affection, as I look forward to meeting the Italian families at the Vigil that will be held in St Peter's Square on Saturday 20 October, and at the Mass that I will have the joy of celebrating the following day, for the beatification of the married couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi.
At the beginning of my Pontificate, when I inaugurated the work for the Synod on the Family, 26 September 1980, I said that "the family is the fundamental object of evangelization and catechesis of the Church, but it is also its indispensable and irreplaceable subject: the creative subject" and I added that, because of its creative force, "it is precisely the family that gives life to the society". I then concluded my address to the Synod Fathers recalling that all the duties of the family can be summed up in one which is primary: "simply guarding and preserving man!".
The vision of the human person, the interpretation of his personal unity in which the physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions are expressed, the significance of the tenderness of married love and of the generation of life are the focus of an epoch-making debate that is having a profound effect on the condition of families. In the face of this situation, the Church's primary task is to point out the reasons that make the commitment to the family of all Christians urgent and necessary. At the same time, it is the task of families themselves and of all people of good will to do their utmost to ensure that the rights of this fundamental social institution be recognized, for the good of individuals and of the whole of society.
The Church must accompany this journey properly and provide from her spiritual resources that are rooted in the sacramental grace of marriage all those human, cultural and social contributions that can help the family become the centre and the crossroads of ecclesial and social life. Every naive and improper separation between the spiritual life and social life must be overcome. The good of the family is an integral good and the various dimensions of its life are inseparable. Its life, as the first cell of the Church and of society, always has a social and public value that must be recognized, protected and promoted.
The family revolves around this central nucleus of human life and from it society draws its origin. All too often today, this truth is forgotten, belied and trampled upon. We must therefore maximize the opportunities for study and reflection, the ways to mobilize families, the cultural, social and political initiatives which, with respect for roles and duties, can help those responsible for the common good to act consistently with the truth about man, which primarily involves safeguarding human life, marriage and the family. For some time the Church in Italy has been working in favour of the family in a cultural perspective that combines pastoral action with a marked presence in the fields of culture and of communication.
Above all it is necessary to stop considering the family as a sector to viewing it as a criterion by which to measure all political action, because all the dimensions of human and social life are interconnected with the good of the family: the protection of human life, health care and the environment; city planning that must offer the housing conditions, services and green areas that families need; the school system that must guarantee a series of services, State schools or schools run by other social groups, in accordance with the parents' right to choose; the revision of work procedures and taxation criteria, which cannot be based merely on the consideration of single subjects, neglecting or worse still, penalizing the family nucleus.
What I wrote in Familiaris consortio remains a fundamental reference point: "The institution of marriage is not an undue interference by society or authority, nor the extrinsic imposition of a form. Rather it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive, in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the Creator" (n. 11).
Of course, the expert contributions of the relators, the experts and all the convention participants will be useful in finding the most suitable ways to affirm and develop all this in the new season. Indeed, on the one hand families legitimately call for the social conditions that correspond to their needs, on the other, they must contribute to building a new social model, through their direct efforts and with the help of the family associations they represent. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for all that has been done in Italy by the Forum of Family Associations, which can be credited with having encouraged a high-profile debate on social problems, giving a voice to the most authentic appeals of families and thus contributing to the good of the whole of Italian society.
From the Vatican, 15 October 2001.
JOHN PAUL II