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Pope's Discourse at Vigil of Family Meeting

7/10/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Children Have the Right to a Home Like That of Nazareth"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 10, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Saturday night, during the Vigil of the 5th World Meeting of Families.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am most happy to take part in this prayer meeting which is meant to celebrate with great joy God's gift of the family. I feel very close in prayer to all those who have recently experienced this city's mourning and in our hope in the Risen Christ, which provides light and strength even at times of immense human tragedy.

United by the same faith in Christ, we have gathered here from so many parts of the world as a community which, with gratitude and joy, bears witness that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God for love, and that complete human fulfillment only comes about when we make a sincere gift of ourselves to others.

The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love. That is why the Church constantly wishes to demonstrate her pastoral concern for this reality, so basic for the human person.

This is what she teaches in her Magisterium: "God, who is love and who created man and woman for love, has called them to love. By creating man and woman he called them to an intimate communion of life and love in marriage. 'So they are no longer two but one flesh' (Matthew 19:6)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Compendium, 337).

This is the truth that the Church tirelessly proclaims to the world. My beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II said that man has been made "in the image and likeness of God not only by his being human, but also by the communion of the persons that man and woman have formed since the beginning. They become the image of God, not so much in their aloneness as in their communion" (Catechesis, 14 November 1979).

That is why I confirmed the calling of this Fifth World Meeting of Families in Spain, and specifically here in Valencia, a city rich in tradition and proud of the Christian faith lived and nurtured in so many of its families.

The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place. The family is itself based primarily on a deep interpersonal relationship between husband and wife, sustained by affection and mutual understanding. To enable this, it receives abundant help from God in the sacrament of matrimony, which brings with it a true vocation to holiness.

Would that our children might experience more the harmony and affection between their parents, rather than disagreements and discord, since the love between father and mother is a source of great security for children and its teaches them the beauty of a faithful and lasting love.

The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents. To proclaim the whole truth about the family, based on marriage as a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all.

Father and mother have said a complete "yes" in the sight of God, which constitutes the basis of the sacrament which joins them together. Likewise, for the inner relationship of the family to be complete, they also need to say a "yes" of acceptance to the children whom they have given birth to or adopted, and each of which has his or her own personality and character.

In this way, children will grow up in a climate of acceptance and love, and upon reaching sufficient maturity, will then want to say "yes" in turn to those who gave them life.

The challenges of present-day society, marked by the centrifugal forces generated especially in urban settings, make it necessary to ensure that families do not feel alone. A small family can encounter difficult obstacles when it is isolated from relatives and friends.

The ecclesial community therefore has the responsibility of offering support, encouragement and spiritual nourishment which can strengthen the cohesiveness of the family, especially in times of trial or difficulty. Here parishes have an important role to play, as do the various ecclesial associations, called to cooperate as networks of support and a helping hand for the growth of families in faith.

Christ has shown us what is always the supreme source of our life and thus of the lives of families: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one had greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:12-13).

The love of God himself has been poured out upon us in baptism. Consequently, families are called to ...

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