International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee
A Common Declaration on the Family
15th Meeting - Jerusalem
Jewish and Christian understandings of the family are based upon the biblical description of the dual creation of the human being - man and woman - in God's image, and on the dual nature of God's covenant with the Patriarchs and Matriarchs - as with Abraham and Sarah together. We affirm the sacred value of stable marriage and the family as intrinsically good. We also stress its value in transmitting the religious and moral values from the past to the present and to the future.
The Jewish People and the Catholic Church represent two ancient traditions that have supported and been supported by the family through the centuries. We can, today, make together a solid contribution to the overall discussion of these themes in this International Year of the Family.
The family is humanity's most precious resource. Today it is faced with multiple crises throughout the world. So that families can meet the obligations placed on them and respond to the challenges facing them, they should have the support of society.
The family is far more than a legal, social or economic unit. For both Jews and Christians, it is a stable community of love and solidarity based on God's covenant. It is uniquely suited to teaching and handing on the cultural, ethical, social and spiritual values that are essential for the development and well-being of its members and of society. The rights and obligations of the family in these areas do not come from the State but exist prior to the State and ultimately have their source in God, the Creator. Family and society have living, organic links. Ideally, they will function to complement each other in furthering the good of humanity and of each person.
Parents, who gave life or have adopted their children, have the primary obligation of bringing them up. They must be the principal educators of their children. Families have an essential right to exercise their responsibilities regarding the transmission of life and the formation of their children, including the right to raise children in accordance with the traditions and values of the family's own religious community, with the necessary instruments and institutions.
Appropriate marriage preparation and parent formation programmes can and should be developed by each of our religious communities on the national and local levels. These can assist parents to meet their responsibilities to each other and to their children, and guide the children to meet their obligations to their parents. Religious communities need to create a variety of support systems for families, just as many of our respective religious rituals have done so effectively over the centuries.
The family should provide a place in which different generations meet to help each other to grow in human wisdom. It should enable family members to learn to accommodate individual rights to other requirements of social life within the larger society. Society, for its part, and in particular the State and international organization, have an obligation to protect the family by political, social, economic, and legal measures that reinforce family unity and stability, so that the family can carry out its specific functions.
Society is called upon to support the rights of the family and of family members, especially women and children, the poor and the sick, the very young and the elderly, to physical, social, political and economic security. The rights, duties and opportunities of women both in the home and in the larger society are to be respected and fostered. In affirming the family, we reach out at the same time to other persons such as unmarried persons, single parents, the widowed and the childless, in our societies and in our Churches and Synagogues.
In view of the worldwide dimension of social questions today, the role of the family has been extended to involve co-operation for a new sense of international solidarity.
While Jews and Catholics have significant differences in perspective, we also have a solid ground of shared values upon which to build our common affirmation of the essential role of the family within society. In turn, these values will only be fully realized through concrete applications in differing cultures and societies. We offer this declaration to our own communities and to other religious communities in the hope that it may be of service to them in their efforts to respond to the challenges which the family is facing today.