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The family in the service of life

On Sunday, 28 December 1980, the Holy Father delivered the following address at the Pontifical Palace, Castel Gandolfo, before the recitation of the Angelus.

1. When, on Christmas day, we go in spirit to Bethlehem, to the place where the Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), we have before the eyes of our faith the inscrutable mystery of God become Incarnate for us men and for our Salvation. At the same time, this mystery takes on the form well-known to us, of a Family: of a human family. In that night, in fact, during which the Virgin Mary, the wife, before God and men, of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, gave birth to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, this family was revealed. Today the Church dutifully venerates it, for we are on the Sunday during the Octave of Christmas, which is dedicated to the Holy Family.

By means of this holy, most holy, family of Bethlehem and Nazareth, of which the true Son of Eternal God, Christ, became the son, the Church today thinks of every family, addresses each one, and prays for each one. This takes on special topicality in that we are in the year of that Synod of Bishops which was dedicated to the role of the Christian family in the modern world.

2. This feast is at the same time the Day of the Family because the "Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph" is a model of life for every man, for every Christian, for every family community. "The more Christian the family becomes, the more human it becomes", the Synod Fathers said (Message of the Synod Fathers, n. 12). Just as the Holy Family of Nazareth was a very special place of love, the truly exceptional atmosphere in which there reigned mutual respect for each individual person and for his vocation, and also the first school in which the Christian message was lived intensely, so the Christian and human family is, and must be, a community of love and life; for these are its fundamental values.

Right from its preparatory stage but above all in its development, the recent Synod of Bishops has helped to arouse a deeper awareness of the great importance and mission which the Christian family has in the delicate situation of the world today. The Synod has meditated again on God's Plan for the family; in the light of God's project, it emphasized the grandeur and the irreplaceability of the role of the family in the service of life, in order to form free and responsible men, as the "domestic Church" open to others and as the original cell, with its own rights and duties with regard to society.

At the conclusion of the Synod, the Bishops who were present sent a "Message to Christian Families in the Modern World". They formulated forty-three propositions, which they laid in the Pope's hands so that he may cause them to bear fruit for the whole Church. All the riches of the recent Synod must now be spread for benefit of families and of society.

While several Episcopal Conferences and many individual Bishops, Priests and committed laymen, are intensifying their work and their dialogue with families, the Pope has very willingly met the general desire of the Bishops and is about to prepare a document.

On his day, dedicated to the Holy Family of Nazareth, I call upon all to reflect, live and become aware of what God, the Church, society and the whole of mankind expect from the family.

For this reason I invite you also to join in the prayer I composed for the recent Synod of Bishops, which I will now recite together with you, for your families and for families throughout the whole world:

Lord God, from you every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Father, you are Love and Life. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, born of woman and through the Holy Spirit, fountain of divine charity, grant that every family on earth may become for each successive generation a true shrine of life and love. Grant that your grace may guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families and of all the families in the world. Grant that the young may find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love. Grant that love, strengthened by the grace of the sacrament of marriage, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. Through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that the Church may fruitfully carry out her worldwide mission in the family and through the family. We ask this of you, who are Life, Truth, and Love, with the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Return to other Papal Writings and Speeches]

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