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Safeguard the family, where love begets life

 On Sunday, 7, September 1980, the Holy Father made a pastoral visit to the diocese of Velletri, bringing to the people of that region the joy of once again receiving a Pope in their midst. It was back in 1863 that the inhabitants last welcomed a reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius IX. During the concelebrated Mass in front of the Cathedral, Pope, John Paul delivered the following homily.

My dearest brothers and sisters,

1. I wish first of all to tell you of my great joy in being able to be among you today, in your very beautiful Velletri. I greet you with particular warmth and thank you heartily for your cordial welcome. My greetings go in a special way to Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Titular Bishop of this glorious suburbicarian Church; the worthy Bishop Dante Bernini the members of the Diocesan Presbyterate all the representatives of' the Religious Orders, male and female to the future priests, to those who are preparing for the permanent Diaconate, to those enrolled in the School of Theology for the Laity and to all those who belong to the various Lay Associations. This meeting of ours, ennobled by the context of the Mass that we are celebrating, is an excellent occasion to confess together our mutual faith in Christ Jesus Our Lord, and to express our mutual communion.

I know I am in a city with an ancient and illustrious history, both in the civil as well as the ecclesiastical sphere; as for the former, suffice it to think about its origins in the Emperor Octavian Augustus; in the latter field the figures of not a few bishops of Velletri elevated either to the See of Peter or even to the honors of the Altars. But I also know very well that the vitality of the Velletrians is not at all limited to the past, but constitutes a fertile patrimony in the present, for which reason your city is distinguished for its dynamism on various levels. I recognize this and as I rejoice in it, I paternally encourage you to continue with equal commitment, seeking above all always to keep high the Christian name that you set apart.

"Give us, O Lord, wisdom of heart"

2. The biblical readings proposed to us by this Sunday's Liturgy center around the concept of Christian wisdom which each of us is invited to acquire and deepen. For this reason the Responsorial Psalm is formulated with these beautiful words: "Give us, O Lord, wisdom of heart"

In fact, without that, how would it be possible to plan our lives, face its various difficulties, and still always preserve a deep feeling of peace and inner serenity? But to do this, as the First Reading teaches, humility is necessary, that is, the authentic sense of our own limits, joined to the intense desire for a gift from above with which to enrich ourselves from within. Man of today, in fact, on the one hand finds it difficult to embrace and understand all the laws regulating the material universe, which are also the subject of scientific observation, while on the other had, he confidently presumes to make laws on things of the spirit that by definition evade physical revelations: "We can hardly guess at what is on earth…but who has traced out what is in the heavens… unless thou hast sent thy holy Spirit from on high?" (1 Wis 9:16-17).

Here the importance of being true disciples of Christ is symbolized, since through Baptism he has been made our wisdom (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), hence the measure of all that forms the concrete texture of our lives.

The Gospel that was read brings out precisely the necessary centrality of Jesus Christ in our existence. And it does so with three conditional sentences; if we do not put him above our dearest things, if we do not prepare to see our crosses in the light of his, if we do not have the sense of the relativity of material goods, then we cannot be his disciples, that is, call ourselves Christians. These things are essential to our identity as baptized: we must always reflect upon them a great deal, even if for now it suffices to mention them to you briefly.

Family, work and the Madonna

3. My very dear Velletrians, it is upon these solid evangelical bases that other important human and Christian values are engrafted and acquire even greater merit. I know that in Velletri it is said that three loves in particular are cherished: family, work, and the Madonna. Well, if you permit, I want to tell you that I share them and I would like to say a few words about each of them. Above all, family; it is the first vital sphere that man encounters on coming into the world, and his experience remains forever decisive. For this reason it is important to care for and protect him, so that he may adequately discharge his specific tasks, which are made known and entrusted to him by nature and Christian revelation. It is the place of love and life, or rather the place where love generates life, since each one of these two realities would not be authentic if it were not accompanied by the other. This is why Christianity and the Church have always defended them and place them in mutual correlation. With regard to this, what my predecessor, the great Pope Paul VI, proclaimed in his first Christmas radio message in 1963 is true: we have "at times tried to turn to remedies that must be considered worse than the evil, if they consist in venturing to control the fecundity of life itself with means that human and Christian ethics must qualify as being illicit: instead of increasing the bread on the table of starving humanity, as today modern productive development can do, some are thinking of lessening with procedures contrary to honesty, the number of table-companions. This is not worthy of civilization" (Teachings of Paul VI, I 1963, P 419). I fully agree with these words, and in fact would like to stress them even more, seeing that from the time they were said to be aggravated and had need of responsible and effective commitment by all honest men at every level of civilized coexistence. Certainly you know that the imminent Synod of Bishops has as the theme of its studies precisely that of the family; let us pray the Lord that the Synod is fruitful of positive and lasting results for the good of the Church and human society itself.

4. In the second place, you love work. On these fertile hills your labor is certainly made real in the cheerful, serene images of the vineyard which produces that typical celebrated local wine, of which you are proud, and justly so. But I do not forget every other type of activity to which each one of you applies himself and for his loved ones.

The Church, as you know, devotes its most attentive care to the problems of labor and workers. In my apostolic journeys I have not failed to trace the main lines of this primary pastoral concern; and I remind you further how Vatican II stated that work "proceeds immediately from the person, who as it were, impresses upon nature his seal and subjects it to his will" (GS 67). Further, given its social importance, work needs to be not only promoted but also protected and defended, so that the duties of workers are justly balanced with their rights being recognized and respected. From the Christian point of view it will never be right to enslave the human person either to an individual or to a system so as to render him pure means of production. He instead is always maintained to be superior to every profit and every ideology: never vice versa.

I hope your labor moulds you to strong and tested virtue, makes you always more mature and conscientious builders of the common good, and producers of that solidarity that, taking its origin from God the Creator, unites and cements your co-existence. Rather, I like to see in the eloquent symbol of brotherhood and reciprocal communion, so that men are transformed into so many table-companions, equal and joyful, seated at the banquet of this life as a prefiguration of the future and eternal feast shared by us with our only Lord.

 5. Finally, you live the Mother of Jesus. I know that the Madonna of Grace is especially dear to you: her image is filially preserved and venerated in your beautiful Cathedral. I am highly pleased, and I urge you to persevere in this devotion of yours that, if rightly understood and lived, will surely lead to the constantly increasing penetration of the mystery of Christ, our only Savior. The heart of his Mother is great and tender enough to pour forth her own love also on each one of us, needful as we are every day of her protection. Therefore let us invoke her with full trust. And therefore I also commend to her, my very dear Velletrians, all of you present here and those who could not participate in this wonderful meeting. In a special way I entrust to her maternal care the sick, the old, the children, whoever feels alone and weak, or in special need. We all have a place in her heart, and under her guidance we can courageously face the difficulties of life and above all reach a full Christian maturity. This is also my warmest wish, with my cordial blessing. Amen!

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