Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The announcement of a guidebook for marriage preparation, highlighting the importance of this sacrament for the entire ecclesial community and another strong condemnation of those priests who have violated the commitment of respect for children. Benedict XVI spoke about these issues today, receiving participants at the nineteenth plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which runs from 8 to 10 February on the theme of children's rights in the twentieth anniversary of the International Convention on measures to protect the Child, adopted by the UN November 20, 1989.
Recalling the convention, the Pope said that "the Church down the centuries, following the example of Christ, has promoted the protection of the dignity and rights of children and, in many ways, she took care of them. Unfortunately, in many cases - he continued - some of its members, acting against this commitment, have violated those rights: a behaviour that the Church does not fail and will not fail to deplore and condemn". "The harsh words of Jesus against those who offend one of these little ones (cf. Mk 9.42) commit us all never to lower the level of respect and love. So even the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been welcomed by the Holy See, because it contains positive statements about the adoption, health care, education, protection of disabled persons and the protection of children against violence, neglect and sexual exploitation and exploitation of child labour".
Benedict XVI then quoted the preamble of the convention, which indicates the family as "the natural environment for the growth and welfare of all its members and particularly children." "Well - he commented - the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the greatest help that can be offered to children. They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love each other, and they need to live, grow and live with both parents, because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in raising children and forming their personality and identity. It is important, then, that we do everything we can to ensure they grow up in a united and stable family. To this end, married couples should be encouraged to never lose sight of the underlying reasons and the sacramental nature of their marriage covenant and to strengthen it in listening to the Word of God, prayer, dialogue, mutual acceptance and mutual forgiveness”.
In this perspective, the Pontifical Council is preparing guidelines for marriage preparation. This preparation, as John Paul II had already noted in Familiaris Consortio, "involves three main stages: remote, proximate and immediate preparation " (No. 66). "Remote preparation - Benedict XVI said in this regard - concerns children, adolescents and young people. It involves the family, parish and school, places where the person is educated to understand life as a vocation to love, that is specified, then, in the forms of marriage and virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. In this stage, moreover, the meaning of sexuality will gradually emerge as a relational skill and positive energy to be incorporated in authentic love. Proximate preparation - he added - concerns the engaged and should be an itinerary of faith and Christian life, leading to a thorough knowledge of the mystery of Christ and the Church, the meaning of grace and responsibility of marriage (cf. ibid. ). The duration and modalities of its implementation will necessarily differ according to situations, opportunities and needs. But it is desirable to provide a path of reflection and experiences in the Christian community, providing the assistance of a priest and several experts, including the presence of community leaders, the accompaniment of some exemplary Christian married couple, dialogue between the couple and group dialogue and a climate of friendship and prayer. Particular care should be taken on this occasion so that the engaged couple revive their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. "
"The immediate preparation - he concluded - takes place near the wedding. This goes beyond the engaged couple, under Canon Law, it includes a reflection on the Rite of marriage and its meaning, spiritual retreat and care that the celebration of the marriage is perceived by the faithful and especially by those who are preparing for it, as a gift for the whole Church, a gift that contributes to its spiritual growth. It is also good that the bishops encourage the exchange of more meaningful experiences, providing a major stimulus for pastoral efforts in this important area and show special attention so that the vocation of the spouses becomes a treasure for the entire Christian community and, especially in present context, a missionary and prophetic witness. "