Monday, February 08, 2010
Pope Benedicts weekend was fairly quiet. Saturday he welcomed Alfonso Roberto Matta Fahsen, Guatemalas new ambassador to the Holy See who presented his Letters of Credence. He also received the president and staff of ACEA (Romes municipal energy and environment firm), which has just celebrated the centenary of its foundation.

Sunday the Pope recited the noon Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peters Square. Before the Marian prayer he reflected on the theme of the divine call experienced by Isaiah, Peter and Paul who, feeling unworthy to serve the Lord and His Church, nonetheless recognize the grace He has given them to be intrepid apostles and proclaimers of salvation. He said, the humility that Isaiah, Peter and Paul bear witness to, invites those who have received the gift of a divine calling not to focus on their own limits, but to keep their gaze fixed on the Lord and on his surprising mercy, to convert the heart and continue, with joy, to leave everything for him.

After the Angelus, Benedict XVI reflected on Italys celebration of the Day for Life, whose theme was The Power of Life: A Challenge in Poverty. In the current economic difficulty, he said, those mechanisms that cause poverty and create major social inequality, wound and offend life, striking above all the weakest and most defenseless, become more harmful. The Holy Father said, such a situation calls for the promotion of an integral human development to overcome poverty and need, and above all reminds us that mans destiny is not well-being but God himself, and that human existence must be defended and favored in all of its stages.

Today the Pope gave a very important talk to the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. However, before I bring you a summary of that talk prepared by VIS, Id like to ask my readers who are involved in pro-life movements for some input.

I have been asked to address a gathering of U.S. collegiate pro-life movements who are having their annual meeting this year at the University of Notre Dame the weekend after Easter significantly enough, Divine Mercy weekend. I would be interested to learn about your experiences: 1. Why did you become active in the pro-life movement instead of being a bystander? 2. What are your greatest challenges (family members not in agreement with you, etc)? 3. How have you been most successful in changing pro-choicers into pro-lifers? Many thanks in advance!


Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, including council president Cardinal Ennio Antonelli. He began his remarks by recalling the late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the council for eighteen years. He underscored how the councils activities are taking place between the Sixth World Meeting of Families, held in Mexico in 2009, and the Seventh World Meeting of Families, to be held in Milan in 2012.

The Holy Father noted how the Pontifical Council undertakes various activities to raise awareness of the fundamental importance of the family for the life of the Church and society. Among these, he mentioned the project known as The Family, Subject of Evangelization, that aims to organize a worldwide review of various experiences in the field of family pastoral care, to serve as inspiration and encouragement for new initiatives.

He also referred to a project entitled The Family, A Resource for Society which, he said, seeks to call public attention to the benefits the family brings to society, to its cohesion and its development. Another important commitment the dicastery has undertaken, he went on, is the compilation of a vademecum of preparation for marriage inspired by the ideas of John Paul II, who outlined how such preparation includes three main stages: remote, proximate and immediate.

Vademecum, from the Latin go with me, is an authoritative guidebook or handbook.

Remote preparation, the Holy Father explained, concerns children, adolescents and young people. It involves the family, the parish and school, places in which people are educated to understand life as a vocation of love, a love which then takes specific form in the way of marriage or of virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. In this period, the meaning of sexuality must progressively emerge as a capacity to relate, a positive energy to be integrated into authentic love.

Proximate preparation, he added, concerns engaged couples and must be configured as an itinerary of faith and Christian life, leading to a deep knowledge of Christ and the Church, of the meaning of grace and responsibility in marriage. ... It should include a course of catechesis and of experience living in Christian communities, involving contributions from priests and other experts as well as the accompaniment of an exemplary Christian couple ... in a climate of friendship and prayer. It is important to take particular care that on these occasions the fiances revive their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, especially by listening to the Word of God, using the Sacraments and, above all, by participating in the Eucharist.

Immediate preparation, said the Holy Father, takes place as the marriage approaches. Apart from the examination of the fiances, as laid down by Canon Law, it could also include catechesis on the rite of marriage and its meaning, a spiritual retreat, and efforts to ensure that the celebration of marriage is seen by the faithful (and especially by those preparing for it) as a gift for the whole Church, one that contributes to her spiritual growth.

Referring then to the theme of the plenary assembly: The Rights of Children, chosen to mark the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, the Pope noted how the Church over the centuries, following the example of Christ, has promoted the dignity and rights of children. In this context he also noted how in various cases some of her members, acting against this commitment, have violated these rights; actions which the Church does not and will not fail to deplore and condemn. ... Jesus harsh words against those who offend one of these little ones are an admonition to everyone never to lower the level of this respect and love.

The family founded on marriage between a man and a woman is the greatest help that can be given to children, said Benedict XVI. They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love one another, and they need to dwell, grow and live with both parents, because the maternal and paternal figures complement one another in the education of children and in the formation of their personality and identity. It is important, then, that everything possible be done to ensure they grow up in a united and stable family.

A troubled family environment, the division of the parents and, in particular, separation through divorce, are not without consequences for children, the Holy Father concluded. Supporting the family and promoting its true good, its rights, its unity and stability is the best way to protect the rights and the real needs of children.

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