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A Plea for the Rights of the Family


December 26, 1999


My dearest brothers and sisters!

1. Today, Sunday, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is very significant that this feast comes the day after Christmas and the opening of the Great Jubilee.

Therefore, I would like to direct a special greeting to families: Merry Christmas and a happy Jubilee Year to you all, to the families of Rome and the whole world! The Jubilee celebrating 2000 years since Christ's birth is yours in a particular way. It reminds us that Christ chose to enter into human history through the family.

2. Today's feast gives me the fitting opportunity to renew, at the beginning of the Holy Year 2000, an appeal in favor of the rights of the family, of life and of childhood, also recognized by the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Man. In order to promote human rights, it is, in fact, necessary to defend the rights of the family, because from the family an integral solution can be found for present and future challenges.

The family is a community of love and of life that is constituted when a man and a woman give themselves totally, one to the other, in matrimony, and are open to receive the gift of a child. The fundamental right to life is inherent to man from conception and belongs to the essence of natural law and to the traditions of the great religions, as well as to the spirit of Article Three of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Man.

The union between mother and child and the irreplaceable function of the father requires that the child be received into a family that guarantees, whenever possible, the presence of both parents. The specific contribution offered by them and through them to society is worthy of the highest consideration.

3. Today the family needs a special protection from the government, which is not infrequently put under pressure by special interest groups in order to legislate certain rights that are in reality the fruit of an individualistic subjective mentality.

"The future of humanity passes through the family" (Familiaris Consortio, 86). The great family of nations is constructed from its smallest but fundamental cell. May God enlighten legislators, heads of state, and every person of good will to promote the effective defense of the rights of the family, of life and of children.

May the Holy Family of Nazareth, who received and nurtured the Redeemer of the world, help us in this task.

Priests for Life
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