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Interview With Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 1, 2006 (Zenit) - Valencia will be a focal point when hundreds of thousands arrive for the World Meeting of Families, July 1-9.

Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco of Valencia shared with us the challenges and expectations of an event of this magnitude, which also involves a visit by Benedict XVI on the last two days of the meeting.

Q: Recently you had the opportunity to meet with Benedict XVI in view of the now imminent World Meeting of Families. How does the Pope see this important event?

Archbishop García-Gasco: The Pope expressed to me his great hope and joy in this world meeting in defense of the family. I am not the Pope's spokesman, so I cannot speak for him, but I can tell you that I have seen that His Holiness is very interested.

The world meeting in Valencia was convoked by Pope John Paul II and it has been a great joy to see that his successor Benedict XVI announced and confirmed his presence on July 8-9 to close the WMF.

Q: For nine days, Valencia will be the world capital of families. What is your greatest challenge and greatest hope as pastor of the host archdiocese?

Archbishop García-Gasco: Every world meeting implies a challenge in the organization of a big event.

Fortunately, in addition to the cooperation of all the priests of the diocese and thousands of laymen and volunteers, we have been able to count on the institutional support of Fernando Giner, president of the City Council, and Rita Barberá, mayor of Valencia, so, with a very healthy cooperation, institutions are helping us in very important matters such as infrastructures, communications, etc.

Our greatest hope is that the world meeting will be useful and effective to shed light on the irreplaceable grandeur of marriage and the family, which is suffering from really ill treatment in the laws of some countries.

In Spain there is an absolute confusion on the matter of marriage and family. Spain is becoming the bank of experimentation of legal inventions in which some minorities are throwing away the legacy of civilization on the complementarity of man and woman and their special dimension in society.

Q: Hundreds of thousands of families from all over the world are expected in Valencia, and millions of people will live the meeting through the media. What will they all take away from such an event?

Archbishop García-Gasco: Indeed, we do expect many pilgrims, to the point that the deadline for registration for the event and for the congresses, which are free, has been extended.

We hope that all the pilgrims will take away with them on one hand, the clarity of the teaching of the Church. At this time when adulation of any form of life is fomented, I believe it is good to highlight that the Church does not live at the mercy of fashions or passing interests.

There are those who say that, if the Church accepted divorce, there would be more people in the churches, but that would be to be lacking in the truth of her mission. The Church is not a political party in quest of votes, or a sect in search of followers through allurement.

On the other hand, we Catholics must reflect further on the family as domestic Church. God willed that faith be transmitted essentially through persons and the family, parents, grandparents and children themselves have an evangelizing work to do in their own families, which is an inexhaustible source of transmission and strengthening of the faith. To be missionaries of faith in one's marriage and one's family strengthens and unites the family.

Benedict XVI, is in many aspects a blessing for the Church. His natural facility to communicate the most complex theological aspects and to give light to people of all intellectual capacities is a great good that thousands of us are going to be able to experience live.

Q: You are a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family and carry out your episcopal ministry in a country that has become a political and legislative laboratory for currents that seek to substitute the family with other forms of living together. What path do you suggest should be followed given this reality? Do you see signs of hope?

Archbishop García-Gasco: First, one must not be afraid to address questions, with respect, even if they are not "politically correct," concept used by the new progressive morality with the intention of discrediting those who criticize the falsehoods it contains.

On the other hand, we cannot fall into the injustice of considering all homosexual or divorced people as enemies of the Church. The radical activist groups seek precisely a confrontation and complete break with the Church.

We must stress that the Church has the obligation to show her teaching to all people without exception, regardless of their condition. No one is excluded from hearing the saving call of the risen Christ who on the Cross itself assured salvation to the criminal condemned to death. The Church is open to all people.

The teaching and the love of God that the Church shows are not incompatible, but are the two hands that can be reached by any man or woman who yearns for divine transcendence.

The path to follow must be that of the personal example of each family and parish and also the clarity of the Church in the dissemination of the message. On not a few occasions and for very different reasons, some of the media in Spain present an image of the Church in which Christians do not recognize themselves or which lend themselves to all kind of ambiguities.

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