Safeguarding life for human dignity
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Man is the way of the Church. And the family is the primary expression of this way. As I wrote in the Letter to Families: «The divine mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (...) has an intimate connection with the human family. Not only with one family, that of Nazareth, but in some way with every family, analogously to what the Second Vatican Council says about the Son of God, who in the Incarnation "united himself in some sense with every man" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Following Christ who "came" into the world "to serve" (Mt 20,28), the Church considers serving the human family to be one of her essential duties. In this sense, both man and the family constitute "the way of the Church" (Gratissimam Sane, 2)».

The Gospel thus sheds lights on human dignity and redeems all that can impoverish the vision of man and his truth. In it is Christ that man perceives the greatness of his call to be an image and child of God; it is in him that God the Father's original plan for man is revealed in its full splendour, and it is in Christ that this original plan will be fully realized. It is in Christ that this first and privileged expression of human society, which is the family, finds light and the full capacity for fulfilment, in conformity with the Father's loving plan.

«If Christ "fully discloses man to himself", he does so beginning with the family in which he chose to be born and to grow up" (Gratissimam Sane, 2)». Christ, Lumen Gentium, light of peoples, illumines human paths, especially that of the spouses' intimate communion of life and love, which is the necessary crossroads in the lives of individuals and peoples where God has always gone to meet them.

This is the sacred meaning of marriage, present in some way in all cultures despite the shadows due to original sin, and which acquires an eminent greatness and value in Revelation: «Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Saviour, the Spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of marriage. He abides with them in order that by their mutual self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity, as he loved the Church and delivered himself for her»(Gaudium et Spes, 48).

Among the truths obscured in man's heart because of increasing secularization and the prevailing hedonism, all those concerning the family are particularly affected. Today, the basic struggle for human dignity is centred on the family and life. In the first place, the elements of equality in the spouses' dignity and their necessary diversity and sexual complementarity in the conjugal relationship are neither recognized nor respected. Even marital fidelity and the respect for life in every phase of its existence are subverted by a culture that denies the transcendence of man created in God's image and likeness. While the disintegrating forces of evil succeed in separating marriage from its mission to human life, they strike at humanity, depriving it of one of the essential guarantees of its future.

The Pope wanted to come to Rio de Janeiro to greet you with open arms like the statue of Christ the Redeemer which dominates this marvellous city from the top of Corcovado. And he has come to confirm you in faith and support your efforts in witnessing to Gospel values. Therefore, with regard to the central problems of the person and his vocation, the Church's pastoral activity cannot respond with a partial apostolate. It is necessary to undertake a pastoral ministry in which the central truths of the faith radiate their own evangelizing power in the various areas of life, especially in that of the family. This is a priority task based on the «certainty that future evangelization depends largely on the domestic Church» (Familiaris Consortio, 65). It is necessary to arouse and present a common front, inspired by and based on the central truths of Revelation, whose interlocutor is the person and whose agent is the family.

Therefore Pastors must be ever more aware of the fact that the family apostolate requires carefully trained pastoral workers, and consequently, efficient and adequate structures in the Episcopal Conferences and Dioceses, which will serve as dynamic centres of evangelization, dialogue and joint activities, with well-designed pastoral projects and plans.

At the same time, I would like to encourage every effort to promote adequate organizational structures, at both the national and international level, which would take responsibility for establishing constructive dialogue with the political authorities, on which, to a large extent, depend the destiny of the family and its mission to the service of life. To find appropriate ways to continue effectively presenting the basic values of God's plan to the world, means being committed to safeguarding humanity's future.