Vatican City (AsiaNews) Offering an alternative to the prevailing individualistic ethos, which denies the family its role as a fundamental social institution, vital cell and pillar of society, and privatises the marital relationship turning it into a simple, legally undefined place for affection and even sex between individuals that last as long as this "weak love" lasts, underlies Pope Benedict XVI's coming visit to Valencia on Saturday and Sunday on the occasion of the Fifth World Meeting of Families.
Planned when John Paul II was still alive, the papal visit will acquire a special meaning, more cultural than political at least for the media, since it is taking place in Spain whose leader, José Luis Zapatero, is a major advocate of the type of "family" the Pope is fighting against.
A preview of this are the announcement by the Spanish prime minister that he will not attend the religious functions planned for the Pope, whom he will meet however on Saturday at the Bishop's residence, the expected protests by gay and secular movements, and the words of Card Antonio Canizares Llovera, primate of Spain, who in his address yesterday to the Congress on the Family, an event that is part of the World Meeting underway in Valencia, reiterated the sacredness of the conjugal link between men and women despite the policies of the current Spanish government.
Whatever their merit, these arguments seem unimportant when compared to the wider view of things that Benedict XVI has taken in his recent statements on the family.
"In today's world," he said on May 13 on receiving the Pontifical Council for the Family, "where certain erroneous concepts concerning the human being, freedom and love are spreading, we must never tire of presenting anew the truth about the family institution, as God has desired it since creation."
Growing number of separations and divorces, he added, shows that "the stability of the family . . . is at risk; to safeguard it one often has to swim against the tide of the prevalent culture, and this demands patience, effort, sacrifice and the ceaseless quest for mutual understanding."
As he said to the Uruguayan ambassador in late June, "some social communication media denigrate or ridicule the great value of marriage and the family, favouring this way selfishness and disorientation instead of generosity and sacrifice which are necessary to preserve the vigour of this truly 'primary cell' of the human community." In fact, for the Pope, the family remains one of those "values" the Church considers "non-negotiable. And if it has its "own rights" that "cannot be dissipated by other forms of union that pretend to usurp its place", it must be helped to "carry out its own indispensable tasks".
According to the Pope, "transmission of the faith", the theme of the Fifth World Meeting of Families and the motto of his visit, is one of those indispensable tasks. As he explained in his July 2 Angelus: "In so many secularized communities, the first urgent need for believers in Christ is indeed the renewal of the faith of adults so that they can communicate it to the new generations.
"Moreover, the process of the Christian initiation of children and young people can become a useful opportunity for parents to renew their ties with the Church and learn even more about the beauty and truth of the Gospel.
"In short, the family is a living organism in which there is a reciprocal exchange of gifts. The important thing is that the Word of God, which keeps the flame of faith alive, never be lacking."
These will be the key points in the two speeches he will deliver to the 5th Fifth World Meeting of Families: on Saturday evening during the vigil that will see families from around the world give testimonials, and on Sunday morning, during the final mass that will bring the Meeting to an end.
The meeting itself, which began on July 1, will draw more than a million people to events such as the World Family Fair, and more than 5,000 participants, including 29 cardinals, to the International Theological-Pastoral Congress. It will also include special assemblies such as the one dedicated to children and grandparents, to better illustrate a cultural approach that wants to be an alternative to the view that problems such groups have must be solved outside the family.
On Saturday the Pope's programme will include a visit to Valencia's Cathedral and its
Virgen de los desamparados Basilicawhere he will address Spanish bishopsand a courtesy call to the Spanish Royal family at Valencia's Generalitat (Autonomous Regional Government) Building. On Sunday, he will meet Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero at the Bishop's residence, take part in the reading of the Angelus and then fly back to Rome.