Children: a message of life and hope
Holy Father addresses themes of
marriage, children and life in Third World Meeting with Families
Note: in Section 8, the Holy Father makes a reference
to our "political decisions."
On Saturday evening, 14 October, the Holy Father's Third World Meeting
with Families was held in St Peter's Square. Married couples and their children,
along with many priests and religious involved in various forms of family
ministry and a great multitude of the faithful numbering over 200,000,
participated in a program of song, dance, speeches, films, personal testimonies
The Holy Father arrived midway in the program and moved through the
crowd in his "popemobile", greeting the faithful, who gave him an enthusiastic
welcome. After taking his seat on the central dais, the Pope listened to the
testimonies of various families and heard musical numbers by family groups, the
Vienna Boys' Choir, the Frisina Chorus and Orchestra, and other
professional singers. He also greeted families representing the five
continents of Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
After blessing a group of Neocatechumenal families who were about to begin
their mission in various countries, the Holy Father spoke to those present. Here
is a translation of his address, which was given in Italian.
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, dear families, who have come here
from the most diverse regions of the world! I also greet the families who, in
every clime, are linked with us now by radio and television and are joining in
this Jubilee of Families.
I thank Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for
the Family, for his address to me in your name. I also greet the other Cardinals
and my Brother Bishops present here, as well as the priests and religious who
are taking part in this festive meeting.
I recently had the joy of going as a pilgrim to Nazareth, the place where the
Word became flesh. On that visit I carried you all in my heart, fervently
praying for you to the Holy Family, the sublime model of all families.
It is precisely the spiritual atmosphere of the House at Nazareth that we want
to relive this evening. The great space where we are gathered, between the
basilica and Bernini's colonnade, is like a house for us, a great, open-air
house. Having gathered as a true family, "one heart and one soul" (cf. Acts
4: 32), we can sense and make our own the sweet and intimate savour of that
humble home, where Mary and Joseph lived praying and working, and Jesus "was
obedient to them" (Lk 2: 51), gradually taking part in their common life.
Children's questions are an echo of God's voice
2. In looking at the Holy Family, you, Christian spouses, are prompted to ask
yourselves about the tasks that Christ assigns to you in your wonderful and
The theme of your Jubilee - Children: springtime of the family and
society - can offer you some significant suggestions in this regard. Do not
children themselves in a way continually "examine" their parents? They do
so not only with their frequent "whys?", but with their very faces, sometimes
smiling, sometimes misty with sadness. It is as if a question were
inscribed in their whole existence, a question which is expressed in the
most varied ways, even in their whims, and which we could put into questions
like these: Mama, papa, do you love me? Am I really a gift for you? Do you
accept me for what I am? Do you always try to do what is really best for me?
These questions perhaps are asked more with their eyes than in words, but they
hold parents to their great responsibility and are in some way an echo of God's
voice for them.
3. Children are a "springtime": what does this metaphor chosen for your
It takes us into that panorama of life, colors, light and song which belongs to
the spring season. Children are all of this by nature. They are the hope that
continually blossoms, a project that starts ever anew, the future that opens
without ceasing. They represent the flowering of married love, which is found
and strengthened in them. At their birth they bring a message of life
which in the ultimate analysis refers back to the very Author of life. In need
of everything as they are, especially in the first stage of life, they
naturally appeal to our solidarity.
Not by chance did Jesus invite his disciples to have a child's heart (cf. Mk
10: 13-16). Today, dear families, you wish to give thanks for the gift of
children and, at the same time, to accept the message that God sends you
through their existence.
4. Unfortunately, as we know so well, the situation of children in the world is
not always what it should be. In many regions, and paradoxically right in the
more prosperous countries, bringing children into the world has become a
decision taken with great hesitation, well beyond that prudence which is
necessarily required for responsible procreation. It could be said that at times
children are seen as more of a threat than a gift.
And what can we say then of the other sad sight of abused and exploited
children, to which I called attention in the Letter to Children?
Children must be able to count on both parents
But you are here this evening to bear witness to your conviction, based on trust
in God, that this trend can be reversed. You are here for a "feast of
hope", making your own the active "realism" of this fundamental Christian
5. The situation of children is really a challenge for society as a whole,
a challenge posed directly to families. No one knows as you do, dear parents,
how essential it is for children to be able to count on you, on both of you -
fathers and mothers - in the complementarity of your gifts. No, it is not
a step forward for civilized society to support trends that obscure this
elementary truth and even demand to be legally recognized.
Are children not already too heavily penalized by the scourge of divorce? How
sad it is for a child to have to divide his love between parents in conflict! So
many children will always bear the psychological scar of the suffering
that their parents' separation caused them.
6. As for the many broken families, the Church feels called not to express a
harsh, detached judgement, but rather to shed the light of God's word,
accompanied by the witness of his mercy, on the depths of so many human
tragedies. This is the spirit in which the pastoral care of the family must
also address the situation of divorced and remarried believers. They are
not excluded from the community; they are invited, instead, to share in its
life, undertaking a journey of growth in the spirit of what the Gospel requires.
The Church, while not concealing from them the truth about the objective moral
disorder of their situation and the resulting consequences for sacramental
practice, wishes to show them all her maternal closeness.
Be certain of this, Christian spouses: the sacrament of Matrimony assures
you of the necessary grace to persevere in the mutual love that your children
need as much as bread.
Today you are called to question yourselves about this profound communion of
love between you, as you ask for an abundance of Jubilee mercy.
Good of the child must always be given priority
7. At the same time, you cannot avoid the essential question about your
mission as teachers. Having given life to your children, you are also
obliged to accompany them, in a way appropriate for their age, in their
directions and life-decisions, while being concerned for all their rights.
In our era, the recognition of children's rights has made doubtless progress,
but the practical denial of these rights, as seen in the many terrible
assaults on their dignity, remains a cause of distress. We must be on guard so
that the good of the child is always given priority: beginning with
the moment that a child is desired. The tendency to use morally unacceptable
reproductive practices reveals the absurd mentality of a "right to a
child", which has replaced the due recognition of the "right of a child"
to be born and later to grow in a fully human way. How different and worthy of
encouragement, on the other hand, is the practice of adoption! A true act
of charity, which looks to the welfare of children before the demands of
8. Dear friends, let us commit all our forces to defending the value of the
family and respect for human life from the moment of conception. These are
values which belong to the basic "grammar" of dialogue and human coexistence
among peoples. I fervently hope that governments and national parliaments,
international organizations and, in particular, the United Nations Organization
will not lose sight of this truth. I ask all people of good will who believe
in these values to join forces effectively so that the latter may prevail in
daily life, in cultural trends and in the mass media, in political decisions and
the laws of nations.
9. To you dear mothers, who bear deep within you an irrepressible instinct for
the defence of life, I make a heartfelt appeal: always be sources of
life, never of death!
I say to you both, mothers and fathers: you have been called to the
exalted mission of cooperating with the Creator in the transmission of life (Letter
to Families, n. 8); do not be afraid of life! Together proclaim the
value of the family and of life. Without these values, there is no future worthy
May the marvellous sight of your lighted torches in this square accompany you at
length as a sign of the One who is the light and who calls you to shed the light
of your witness on humanity's way along the paths of the new millennium!