07/09/2006, 00.00
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Pope: fostering family serves common good, true freedom of man

Benedict XVI closed the fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia. Born of the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, the family is not only a place for the transmission of life and culture, but also of faith. The next World Meeting of Families will be held in Mexico City in 2009.

Valencia (AsiaNews) – Recognizing and fostering "the marvellous reality of the indissoluble marriage between man and woman", is "one of the greatest services which can be rendered nowadays to the common good and to the authentic development of individuals and societies, as well as the best means of ensuring the dignity, equality and true freedom of the human person".

Benedict XVI spoke these words this morning to tens of thousands – the organisers said one million – faithful who gathered in Valencia from around the world for the fifth World Meeting of Families. The address delivered by the pope during the closing mass of the event highlighted the distance between the modern culture of subjectivism and that of the Church. On the one hand, are those who make individual "subjective and ephemeral desires" the criteria around which to organise the life of society. On the other hand, there is the call for a return to "prior truths such as the dignity of each human being and his inalienable rights and duties, which every social group is called to serve".

Sporting multi-coloured caps and fans, an immense crowd of people in festive mood gathered under the sun on the large esplanade that was once the bed of the diverted Turia river, alongside the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia. The Pope did not make any explicit reference to the state of affairs in the country hosting the world meeting. But the fact that the royal family represented Spain at the event revealed more starkly than ever the gulf between this reality and the ideological prejudice that prompted Premier Zapatero to – apparently – vest his proclaimed absence with the air of a challenge.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow was present, led by the head of external relations, Metropolitan Kiril.

"All of us," said the pope, "received from others both life itself and its basic truths, and we have been called to attain perfection in relationship and loving communion with others. The family, founded on indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, is the expression of this relational, filial and communal aspect of life. It is the setting where men and women are enabled to be born with dignity, and to grow and develop in an integral manner." When a child is born, "together with the gift of life, they receive a whole patrimony of experience. Parents have the right and the inalienable duty to transmit this heritage to their children: to help them find their own identity, to initiate them to the life of society, to foster the responsible exercise of their moral freedom and their ability to love on the basis of their having been loved and, above all, to enable them to encounter God." This is because faith is "not merely a cultural heritage, but the constant working of the grace of God who calls and our human freedom, which can respond or not to his call. Even if no one can answer for another person, Christian parents are still called to give a credible witness of their Christian faith and hope. The need to ensure that God's call and the good news of Christ will reach their children with the utmost clarity and authenticity."

"In contemporary culture, we often see an excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual as an autonomous subject, as if we were self-created and self-sufficient, apart from our relationship with others and our responsibilities in their regard. Attempts are being made to organize the life of society on the basis of subjective and ephemeral desires alone, with no reference to objective, prior truths such as the dignity of each human being and his inalienable rights and duties, which every social group is called to serve. The Church does not cease to remind us that true human freedom derives from our having been created in God's image and likeness. Christian education is consequently an education in freedom and for freedom."

"The Christian family - father, mother and children - is called, then, to do all these things not as a task imposed from without, but rather as a gift of the sacramental grace of marriage poured out upon the spouses. If they remain open to the Spirit and implore his help, he will not fail to bestow on them the love of God the Father made manifest and incarnate in Christ. The presence of the Spirit will help spouses not to lose sight of the source and criterion of their love and self-giving, and to cooperate with him to make it visible and incarnate in every aspect of their lives. The Spirit will also awaken in them a yearning for the definitive encounter with Christ in the house of his Father and our Father." And, concluding his homily, the pope added: "This is the message of hope that, from Valencia, I wish to share with all the families of the world."

At the end of the mass and after praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI, who will return to Rome today itself, said the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2009 in Mexico City.

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