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Benedict XVI's Address to John Paul II Institute

"Authentic Love Is Transformed Into a Light"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday when receiving participants in the congress promoted by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

* * *

Lord Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

With great joy I meet with you on this 25th anniversary of the foundation of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, in the Pontifical Lateran University. I greet you all with affection and I offer my heartfelt thanks to Monsignor Livio Melina for the kind words he addressed to me in your name.

The beginnings of your institute are related to a very special event: precisely on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square, my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, suffered the well-known grave attempt on his life during the audience in which he should have announced the creation of your institute. This event is of special importance in the present commemoration, which we celebrate shortly after the anniversary of his death. You wished to highlight it through the appropriate initiative of a congress dedicated to the theme "The Legacy of John Paul II on Marriage and the Family: to Love Human Love."

With reason you feel this legacy in a totally special manner, as you are the recipients and continuators of the vision that was one of the pivots of his mission and reflections: God's plan for marriage and the family. It is a legacy that is not simply an ensemble of doctrines and ideas, but is, above all, a teaching gifted with a luminous unity on the meaning of the human love of life. The presence of numerous families in this audience is a particularly eloquent testimony of how the teaching of this truth is accepted and has borne fruits.

The idea to "teach to love" was already with the young priest Karol Wojtyla and subsequently energized him, as a young bishop, when he faced the difficult moments that followed the publication of the prophetic and always timely encyclical of my predecessor Paul VI, "Humanae Vitae." It was in that circumstance that he understood the need to undertake a systematic study of this topic.

This constituted the substratum of that teaching that he later offered to the whole Church in his "Catechesis on Human Love." He underlined in this way the two fundamental elements that you have tried to reflect on more profoundly in these years and that configure the very novelty of your institute as an academic reality with a specific mission within the Church.

The first element is that marriage and the family are rooted in the innermost core of the truth about man and his destiny. Sacred Scripture reveals that the vocation to love is part of that authentic image of God that the Creator willed to imprint in his creature, calling man to become similar to him precisely in the measure in which man is open to love. The sexual difference entailed in the body of man and woman is not, therefore, a simple biological fact, but bears a much more profound meaning: It expresses that way of love with which man and woman become only one flesh; they can realize an authentic communion of persons open to the transmission of life and cooperate in this way with God in the procreation of new human beings.

A second element characterizes the novelty of John Paul II's teaching on human love: his original way of reading God's plan in the convergence between revelation and human experience. In Christ, in fact, fullness of the revelation of the Father's love, is also manifested the full truth of man's vocation to love, which can only be found fully in the sincere giving of oneself.

In my recent encyclical I wished to underline how, precisely, through love "the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny" is expressed ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 1). That is, he made use of the way of love to reveal the mystery of his Trinitarian life.

In addition, the profound relationship that exists between the image of God-Love and human love enables us to understand that "monogamous marriage corresponds to the image of the monotheist God. Marriage based on an exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship of God with his People and vice versa, God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love" (ibid., No. 11). This indication still remains to a large extent to be explored.

In this way the task is outlined that the Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family has in the whole of its academic structures: to illuminate the truth of life as a way of plenitude for all forms of human existence. The great challenge of the New Evangelization, which John Paul II proposed with so much drive, needs to be supported with a profound authentic reflection on human love, as this love is a privileged way that God has chosen to reveal himself to the world and in this love he calls it to communion in the Trinitarian life.

This approach also enables us to overcome a conception enclosed in merely private love, which is so widespread today. Authentic love is transformed into a light that guides the whole of life toward plenitude, generating a humanized society for man. The communion of life and love, which is marriage, becomes in this way an authentic good for society. To avoid the confusion with other types of unions based on weak love is something especially urgent today. Only the rock of total and irrevocable love between man and woman is capable of being the foundation of a society that becomes a home for all people.

The importance that the work of the institute entails in the mission of the Church explains its own configuration: In fact, John Paul II had approved only one institute with different premises spread over the five continents, with the objective of being able to offer a reflection that shows the wealth of the only truth in the plurality of cultures.

This unity of vision in research and teaching, despite the diversity of places and sensitivities, represents a value that you must guard, developing the riches rooted in every culture. This characteristic of the institute has demonstrated itself to be particularly appropriate for the study of a reality such as marriage and the family. Your work can show how the gift of creation lived in the different cultures has been elevated to grace of redemption by Christ.

To be able to carry out your mission well as faithful heirs of the institute's founder, our beloved John Paul II, I invite you to contemplate Mary Most Holy, as the Mother of Beautiful Love. The redeeming love of the incarnate Word must become for each marriage and each family "fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 42). To all of you, dear professors, students of yesterday and today, to all the staff, as well as the families of your Institute, I express my best wishes, accompanied by a special blessing.

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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