OPENING OF THE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL PASTORAL CONGRESS
ADDRESS OF CARDINAL ALFONSO LÓPEZ TRUJILLO
Gospel of Family, Gospel of Life
Your Eminence, the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime L. Sin,
Maráming salámat, minámahal na Cardinal Sin, at sa mga [MÁ-NGA] tumúlong sa paghandá ng [NANG] Fourth World Meeting of Families. Bigyán nawá táyo ng [NANG] Panginoón ng [NANG] maráming biyáya.
[Translation: I thank you, beloved Cardinal Sin, and your collaborators, for preparing this Fourth World Meeting of Families. May the Lord grant us abundant fruits].
I have the great honor of greeting you, in the name of the Holy Father. It is John Paul II who, in the name of Christ, has gathered us together. He is the Pope of the family and of life. His special love for this great cause which is the family, and everything that he has worked for and done for the family, is his gift to the Church and to the world. His profound Magisterium guides and enlightens us. His enthusiasm and dynamism as defender of the family and of life stimulates us, in the midst of the challenges, towards hope.
The Holy Father John Paul II has called the Church to become deeply committed to the urgent, demanding task of evangelization that brings together the content of Evangelii nuntiandi in a new spirit and relaunches the community of believers to face the new challenges.
Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (8 December 1975) is the mature fruit of the Synod on Evangelization. It is surely one of the most important documents that have emerged from the Synods of Bishops, and the one that has had the greatest impact and influence.
The Holy Father John Paul II speaks of the New Evangelization that is new in its ardor, new in its methods and in its expressions. Let us see how this concerns the family.
a) New in its ardour
The renewing presence of the Spirit who warms and recreates everything is needed: "Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium" (Bend what is rigid, warm what is cold, straighten what has gone astray). This evangelizing ardor, which comes from the power of Pentecost and passes through the Council, is sustained by the certainty of the Word of life and the passion for a renewed proclamation.
In this regard, it is useful to cite n. 47 of Novo Millennio ineunte: "At a time in history like the present, special attention must also be given to the pastoral care of the family, particularly when this fundamental institution is experiencing a radical and widespread crisis. In the Christian view of marriage, the relationship between a man and a woman - a mutual and total bond, unique and indissoluble - is part of God's original plan, obscured throughout history by our "hardness of heart', but which Christ came to restore to its pristine splendor, disclosing what had been God's will "from the beginning' (Mt 19,8). Raised to the dignity of a Sacrament, marriage expresses the "great mystery' of Christ's nuptial love for his Church (cf. Eph 5,32). On this point the Church cannot yield to cultural pressures, no matter how widespread and even militant they may be".
Christians, especially families, have to radiate and give light like burning, incandescent lava close to the center of the fire of love which is God. If we are far from God (in secularization), everything becomes like cold lava, to use the beautiful expression of Hans Urs von Balthasar ("The Christian element must always flow, even historically, from a living, incandescent center in order to pour into the outside world; there is always enough cold lava around us. Liberalized and de-dogmatized Christianity continues to be a more distantly irradiated light that leaves from the center, but does not have the center's original capacity. This is a prerogative of the innermost circle that forms immediately around the event of God's promise in Christ. It is the community of those for whom the Word does not become cold in an abstract doctrine, but is a living, personal and trinitarian presence in love of one's neighbor and sacramental and existential communion. Anywhere in the world where a community like this exists, the liberation of the world starts to take place there" [Hans Urs von Balthasar, Nella pienezza della fede, Ed. Città Nuova, 1992]).
b) New in its methods
In the area of evangelization, the Church has shown great creativity everywhere. The term "methods" is broad-ranging and the methods have to be at the service of the Gospel's penetration like salt and leaven in society.
It is necessary to discover and develop different methods in many successful experiences of dioceses, parishes and apostolic movements. The latter are growing, becoming stronger and offering in the field of the family and of life a stimulating variety, with their different charisms.
c) New in its expressions
The complex theme of language has to be taken up: "Christ himself asks us to proclaim the Good News using a language that brings the Gospel closer and closer to today's new cultural realities...".
We have a variety of contexts before us (for example, urban, rural), and a new culture is being imposed on them. The passage from a culture of the word to a culture of the image raises a special question, and everything in general derived from progress in the communications media (which are shaping a "forma mentis") from which the Church cannot be absent.
The pastoral care of the family and of life must look for a language suited to a dialogue based on closeness and being committed to the truth, that lets empathy, sensitivity, commitment and responsibility be felt for the tragic situations, tensions and conflicts in a Mother Church who, because she is a mother, does not conceal the truth and the will of God.
Part of the creative renewal of the pastoral care of the family and of life (in a Gospel inseparable from the mission of the family because life is part of procreation) looks to the structures in the Commissions of the Bishops' Conferences and the Dioceses to give an impulse to an organic pastoral care in which recognizes the centrality of the family and its presence in the different dimensions of pastoral care. A functional organization must exist. One point of particular importance is the preparation of pastoral workers. Fortunately, the Centers and Institutes for academic and pastoral formation are increasing.
Challenges that affect family life
The New Evangelization and the mission ad gentes create a challenge for the Church today. Evangelized and evangelizing Christian families have a privileged place in the life of Christian communities, both of peoples with an ancient Christian tradition and those evangelized more recently.
In a broadly secularized environment, which even takes the form of neo-paganism, it is not only difficult to believe and follow personally the truths synthesized in the symbol of faith or taught by the Church; it is also difficult to transfer them into the context of life. The New Evangelization really takes off from this division in which one loses the spontaneous, serene integration of faith and life that normally exists when everything is permeated by a definite Christian culture.
New lifestyles are being introduced that are derived, at least implicitly, from a series of choices which are incompatible with a Christian universe, and made in the name of a kind of pluralism that leads to the imposition and acceptance of ethical codes that diverge from Christian values.
The striking synthesis in the well-known Letter to Diognetus says, "Christians in fact are not distinguished from other people by their territory, language or dress.... They marry like everyone else and have children, but they do not expose their newborn. They have their table in common, but not their bed" (Letter to Diognetus, V, 1.6). Isn't this passage a beautiful, attractive synthesis of the Gospel of the family and of life?
Family: attractive witness, stable community of love, life of man and woman in mutual self-giving
The family must become an attractive witness to its own identity, based on a community of love and life (totius vitae) between a man and a woman in mutual, total self-giving. The totality of mutual self-giving gives a foundation and meaning to the characteristics of this communion: total self-giving requires and expresses fidelity and exclusivity. It is a fruitful communion, open to the gift of life, according to its mission of integral procreation, which is not just biological, but calls for education in a "spiritual womb" (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Teologica II, q. 10, art. 12.), represented by the family, especially during a child's first years of life. Moreover, to introduce a separation between the unitive and procreative meanings of conjugal love (cf. Humanae vitae, n. 10 ss) is a betrayal of love because it puts limits on mutual, complete and total self-giving which is required for the stability of the communion until death. Today these aspects have been greatly enriched by theological reflection and what should be further explored are their links with the rich potential of mutual self-giving under the sign of tenderness.
Family Politics to change the approach of politicians and programmes in the media
The New Evangelization requires that families be organized, to mobilize and be present in a responsible way in the field of politics in the effort to create true family politics. One important aspect of this political dimension entails the need to orient and offer correcting programmes in the communications media, particularly on television which enters into families like an intruder and jeopardizes parents' right to educate their children.
In a candid dialogue with politicians and lawmakers, families should remind them about their responsibilities and express their disagreement and opposition in an effort to protect the dignity of love and the right to life. A very large proportion of families stand firm in their mission, even in the countries affected most by the crises that can weaken the family.
Conversion of heart, mind, life
The New Evangelization must lead to a conversion that goes from the new paganism towards truth, towards God. This entails a personal and social conversion that is expressed in a lifestyle, according to God's will, in the domestic church.
Today we are witnesses to many conversions of people who have realized how demeaning and destructive it is to drift away from truth. Many surveys in different countries show that a significant percentage of young people want to have a stable, worthy family of their own in which they can be fulfilled as persons. The necessary conversion passes through recognition of the fact that the family, as the educator of persons, carries out a kind of social mediation that has not ended and will not end. By following this itinerary of personal growth, guided by parents, children discover God as our Father. They come to realize that no one is as capable of loving as He is. To discover God in the family, in the dynamic transmission of faith in the home, means to grow as Christians and leads one to destroy the idols that secularism fabricates in an unceasing, difficult and bewildering way.
We live in a time of great challenges. In some regions secularization has tried to eradicate Christian culture, weaken families and conspire against the holiness of human life.
There are, however, motives for solid hope. The powerful teaching and example of Pope John Paul II guides the Church and humanity to guarantee the future of the family. Our Christian enthusiasm has many foundations: millions and millions of faithful families, happy with their vocation, in this marvelous Christian nation, the Philippines, and all over the world. Episcopal conferences and dioceses recognize the absolute pastoral priority and centrality of the family. The evangelizing activity of the parishes and the movements is growing and ardent, like burning lava.
The joy and dedication of all those present here is a strong proof that you believe and you offer yourselves completely to spread this wonderful news which is the Christian family! The future is in the hands of God, and the Lord of the family accompanies us along the way.