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Do not fear having children

April 28, 1990

POPE ASKS FAMILIES TO DEFEND LIFE IN ALL ITS STAGES

On 28 April the Holy Father received in audience participants in a Family Ministry convention sponsored by the Italian Bishops' Conference.

In his speech the Pope made these points:

--The Church's pro-life commitment "has never been limited to the moment of life's beginning alone" and demands service of life in all its manifestations: from the fragile moments at its beginning to the problem-laden situations of physical suffering and marginalization, to the moments of old age and natural passing away;

--a family built on a healthy base will find the way to accept children generously as a concrete sign of its love of life and as a clear witness of its trust in divine Providence, which never abandons those who entrust themselves to it with active serenity;

--the responsibilities of procreation extend "to the task of raising children to live as good human beings and Christians by means of sound and on-going educational activity";

--parents will serve their children by helping them offer themselves as a self-gift in their proper vocations;

--"A political community truly aware of the fundamental role which the family plays within society towards healthy and civil co-existence, will find the way to bring about those multifaceted forms of support which express effective respect towards it and which permit it to place itself at the service of human life in all its needs and dimensions."

Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

1. I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of this National Convention of family apostolate, sponsored by the Italian Bishops' Conference, its Special Committee for the Laity and the Family and the Family Apostolate Office. To all of you, and especially the committee chairman, Bishop Morino Tagliaferri, and my other brothers in the Episcopate, I offer heartfelt greetings and express as well my deepest appreciation for the constant efforts which the Italian Church has been assuming for years in order to promote the family and defend life.

It is a commitment which has never been limited to the moment of life's beginnings alone, knowing that an effective defense of this fundamental human good presupposes an attitude of respect and of love, which disposes people to serve life in all its manifestations: from the fragile moments at its beginning to the problem-laden situations of physical suffering and marginalization, to the moments of old age and natural death. The recent document of the Italian Bishops, Evangelization and the Culture of Human Life, merits careful study, because it not only presents an organic synthesis of the Church's teaching on life within the full range of earthly existence, but it also offers useful workable guidelines for the spread of a real culture of life and for adequate Christian formation of conscience.

2. Your convention has the goal of reflecting on the great and fundamental contribution which the family is called to make towards effectively serving life. For is not the family the natural place in which human life is born, grows up, matures and declines? Therefore it is the family's task to place itself at the service of every life and of all life, even when life presents difficult moments and problem-filled aspects. What's more, it is right to expect that especially in such circumstances the family will find a way to express that quality of concern and tender affection which characterizes the specific spiritual texture of its life as a community of love.

Especially if the family is established on a healthy base, it will find the way to accept children generously as a concrete sign of its love of life and as a clear witness of its trust in divine Providence, which never abandons those who entrust themselves to it with active serenity. This goes especially for young families who, if they are trained in a Christian spirit, will not let themselves be conquered by an unjustified fear of having children and will find a way to overcome the many groundless and selfish tendencies towards putting off giving birth, aware as they are that "children are the supreme good of marriage" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 50) and the sign of blessing from the Lord, the "lover of life" (Wis 11:21).

This becomes especially important at a time of a sharp demographic decline such as we are experiencing in Italy. Families must once again express a generous love for life and place themselves at its service above all by accepting the children which the Lord wants to give them with a sense of responsibility not detached from peaceful trust. It is this attitude which, if it is taken on with consistency, will allow families to be open to accepting even the numerous situations of physical and spiritual difficulties which life can offer as time passes and will dispose them to offer solidarity and concrete help to so many people presented to us by society who are marginalized, infirm and elderly.

3. Naturally the responsibility of procreation extends likewise to the task of raising children to live as good human beings and Christians by means of sound and on-going educational activity. The family is the first and the basic school for children, and parents are the principal and natural teachers of their children. Each parent's educational task and each family's mission and joy is to help their children understand by word and example the real reasons for living and the beauty of life which in its full range of development is God's gift.

Today carrying out this task has become a source of problems and worries for many families. They must be able to find concerned support in the pastors of souls, aided by family group initiatives undertaken with prudent zeal within the Christian community. It is their task to foster, among other things, opportunities for parents to meet in order to share their various experiences and thus be able to face up better to common problems.

4. Families will place themselves at the service of life not only by their acceptance and through a continuing educational effort, but also through an obligatory commitment, at times perhaps neglected, to help teenagers especially and young people to accept the vocational dimension of every living being, within God's plan. For this to happen, they will have to put to good use the Christian motivations which must be the basis of the choices they make. Human life acquires fullness when it becomes a self-gift: a gift which can express itself in matrimony, in consecrated virginity, in self-dedication to one's neighbor towards an ideal, or in the choice of priestly ministry. Parents will truly serve the life of their children if they help them make their own lives a gift, respecting their mature choices and fostering joyfully each vocation, including the religious and priestly one. Indeed they will feel that they have been specially blessed if the Lord wills that within their home the seed of a call to a life of consecration and priestly ministry grows.

5. The Church is striving to be continually near to families in their often tormented situations and in their frequently exacting educational activities. Development of numerous initiatives of support, such as those of family counselors, is a sign of the trust she places and the highest importance which she sees in the reality of the family whose future is the future of humanity (cf. Apost. Exhort. Familiaris Consortio, n. 86).

Society and the State too must place themselves at the service of the family. Recognition of inalienable rights which belong to it as a natural society founded on matrimony must be translated socially and politically into concrete decisions which permit it to carry out its proper roles with the needed recognition and support of an institutional and even of an economic nature. A political community truly aware of the fundamental role which the family plays within society towards healthy and civil coexistence will find the way to bring about those multifaceted forms of support which effectively express respect for it and which permit it to place itself at the service of human life with all its demands and in all its dimensions.

6. Dearest ones, bring to all who draw near to your pastoral activities the assurance that the Pope is near to all families, that he shares intimately in their joys and sufferings, and hopes that they may find the energy to place themselves effectively at the service of that very great gift of God which is human life. Thus he is near and in solidarity with all of you who are working for the good of the family, in various forms of the family apostolate.

With the strength born out of trust in the Risen Lord and nourished in prayer, I ask Italian families to make exemplary choices which are courageously consistent with the highest value of life. May Mary Most Holy, who brought her universal motherhood to fulfillment at the foot of the cross of her Son, sustain the journey of every family and of each mother with her powerful intercession.

As a sign of my affection and of my solidarity I impart the Apostolic Blessing from my heart.

Priests for Life
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