John Paul II's 3rd Apostolic Visit to Brazil
for the 2nd World Meeting for Families
2nd - 5th October 1997 - Rio de Janiero
Click here to read all John Paul II's words (in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish) during his visit to Brazil for the 2nd World Meeting for Families.
JPII said that he would like to be known as the Pope of Families :-)
Saturday, 4th October
1. Dear families who have gathered here in Rio de Janeiro, who come from all peoples and all nations!
Beloved families of the whole world, who are following this meeting on radio and television! I greet you all with special affection and bless you.
I thank you very much for this warm expression of faith and joy that you have wanted to offer us today to help us reflect on the fact that the family is truly a gift and a commitment for the individual and for life, as well as the hope of humanity. Art has also been used as a way to serve the message of committed love and life, a marvellous gift of God. You have enabled us to share in what the Lord, the author of marriage and the Lord of life, has accomplished in you, and you have also borne witness to what you have achieved with his grace. Is it not true that the Lord, in the most varied situations, even amid suffering and difficulties, has always accompanied you? Yes! The Lord of the Covenant, who came to seek you and found you, has always accompanied you on your way. God our Lord, the Author of marriage, has made you one and has filled you abundantly with the riches of his love for your own happiness.
I would like to repeat here, in a short summary, what you have reflected on, after an intense catechetical preparation in conformity with the Church's Magisterium, in your Family Assemblies, Dioceses, parishes, movements and associations. It was certainly a wonderful preparation, whose fruits you have brought here today for the benefit and joy of all.
2. The family is the patrimony of humanity because it is through the family, in accordance with God's plan, that man's presence on earth must continue. In Christian families, based on the sacrament of marriage, faith gives us a marvellous glimpse of the face of Christ, the splendour of truth which fills with light and joy homes whose life is inspired by the Gospel.
Unfortunately, today a false message of happiness is spreading throughout the world, which is impossible and inconsistent, and brings with it loneliness and sorrow. Happiness is not achieved by taking the way of freedom without truth, because this is the way of irresponsible selfishness, which divides and disrupts the family and society.
It is not true that married couples, as though slaves condemned to their own weakness, cannot be faithful to their total gift of self until death! May the Lord, who calls you to live in the unity of "one flesh", a unity of body and soul, a unity of the whole of life, give you the strength for a fidelity which ennobles you and ensures that your union will not run the risk of betrayal, which robs it of dignity and happiness and brings division and sorrow to the home, the chief victims of which are the children. The best protection for the family is fidelity, which is a gift of the faithful and merciful God, in a love redeemed by him.
3. Here I would like once again to utter a cry of hope and freedom!
Families of Latin America and of the whole world: do not let yourselves be seduced by that false message which degrades peoples, attacks the best traditions and values and brings great suffering and unhappiness to your children. The cause of the family confers dignity upon the world and liberates it in the authentic truth of the human being, of the mystery of life, the gift of God, and of man and woman, images of God. You must fight for this cause to ensure your happiness and the future of the human family.
This afternoon, when families from all parts of the world are taking one another by the hand, as if to form an immense chain of love and fidelity, I address an invitation to everyone who is striving to build a new society in which the civilization of love prevails: defend your families as a precious and irreplaceable gift — a precious and irreplaceable gift. Protect them with just laws that fight poverty and the scourge of unemployment and, at the same time, allow parents to fulfil their role. How can young people start a family if they do not have the means to support it? Poverty is destroying the family, preventing access to culture and to basic education, corrupting morals and undermining the health of young people and adults. Help them! Help them!Your future is at stake!
In modern history there are many social phenomena that invite us to examine our consciences regarding the family. In many cases it must be recognized with shame that errors and mistakes have been made. How can we fail to denounce that behaviour, motivated by lack of restraint and responsibility, which tends to treat human beings as mere objects or instruments of fleeting and empty pleasure? How is it possible not to react to the lack of respect, to pornography and to every kind of exploitation, for which it is often children who pay the highest price?
Societies indifferent to children are inhuman and irresponsible. Homes which do not provide a complete education for their own children, or which abandon them, are committing a very serious injustice for which they will have to give an account before the judgement seat of God. I know that many families are sometimes victims of situations that are more than they can handle. In this case, it is necessary to appeal to the solidarity of all, because children end up suffering every form of misery: economic poverty, and above all moral poverty, which causes the phenomenon to which I referred in my Letter to Families: there are many orphans of living parents!
As the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Council for the Family recalled, to serve as a symbol of an effective charity and the result of the First World Meeting with Families in Rome, a "Child City" has been set up in Rwanda, built with the help of many people and a few generous institutions, and another is being built in Salvador da Bahia, in the marshes I visited and where I addressed an appeal for hope and human advancement during my first Apostolic Visit to Brazil in July 1980. This effort brings a message and an invitation with it which I address to everyone, through you, families of the whole world: welcome your children with responsible love; protect them as a gift of God, from the moment of conception when human life is born in the mother's womb, so that the abominable crime of abortion, the shame of humanity, does not condemn the unborn to the most unjust of executions: that of the most innocent human beings! How many times have we heard from the lips of Mother Teresa of Calcutta this proclamation about the priceless value of life beginning in the mother's womb, and against any act that destroys life? We all heard it during the Testimonies at the First Meeting in Rome. Death has silenced those lips. But Mother Teresa's message on behalf of life continues to be more vibrant and convincing than ever.
4. In this stadium, which because of the play of lights looks like the stained-glass windows of an immense cathedral, today's celebration wants to call everyone to make a great and noble commitment, for which we ask almighty God for help.
For families, that united in Christ's love, pastorally organized, actively present in society, committed to the mission of humanization, liberation and the building of a world according to Christ's heart, they may truly be the hope of humanity.
For children, that they may grow up like Jesus, at the home in Nazareth. The seed of the new humanity sleeps in the womb of mothers. The future, the next millennium, tomorrow, which is in God's hands, shines in children's faces.
For young people, that they may commit themselves with great enthusiasm to preparing for their future families, teaching themselves true love which is openness to others, the ability to listen and to respond, the commitment to generous self-giving, even at the cost of personal sacrifice, and willingness to show mutual understanding and forgiveness to young people!
Yesterday, while speaking at the Riocentre, I thanked Rio de Janeiro for giving me a great inspiration. Here a divine architecture and a human architecture marvellously harmonize, giving me an inspiration, an inspiration for marvellously harmonizing families in the divine plan and in the human plan. These two architectures, divine and human, harmonize. And how do they harmonize? These two words seem right and necessary: love and responsibility. I reached this conclusion 50 years ago ... yes, 50 years ago: love and responsibility. This seems to be a true principle for harmonizing the two architectures — the divine and the human — of marriage and the family.
5. Families of the whole world, I would like to end by renewing my appeal: Be living witnesses to Christ, who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (cf. Letter to Families, n. 23)! Let hearts welcome the fruit of this Pastoral Theology Congress which has just ended! May the grace and peace of God, our Father, and of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Mary Queen of the Family,
Seat of Wisdom, Handmaid of the Lord,
pray for us. Amen.
Pray for us, pray for young people,
pray for families.
Sunday, 5th October 1997
"Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!
1. "May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives" (responsorial psalm).
I give thanks to God for having permitted me to meet you again, families from all over the world, to reaffirm solemnly that you are "the hope of humanity"!
The First World Meeting with Families took place in Rome in 1994. The second ends today in Rio de Janeiro. I cordially thank Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales for inviting me and I also thank all the Bishops and the Brazilian authorities who have contributed to the success of this great event. And I cordially thank Cardinal López Trujillo and all his assistants at the Pontifical Council for the Family. We are gathered here from various countries and Churches, not only from Brazil and Latin America but from all the continents, to raise this prayer to God together: "May the Lord bless us, all the days of our lives"!
In fact, the family is the particular and, at the same time, fundamental community of love and life on which all other communities and societies are based. Therefore, in invoking the blessings of the Most High upon families, let us pray together for all the great societies that we represent here. Let us pray for the future of the nations and States, and for the future of the Church and the world.
In fact, through the family all human life is oriented to the future. In the family man comes into the world, grows and matures. In it he becomes an increasingly mature citizen of his country, and an increasingly aware member of the Church. The family is also the first, fundamental environment where every person identifies and fulfils his own human and Christian vocation. Lastly, the family is a community that cannot be replaced by any other. This is what we can glimpse in today's liturgical readings.
2. The representatives of Jewish orthodoxy, the Pharisees, approached the Messiah to ask him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Christ then asks them what Moses had commanded. They answered that Moses had allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to put her away. But Christ said to them: "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female'. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mk 10:5-9).
Christ referred to the beginning. This beginning is contained in the Book of Genesis, where we find the description of the creation of man. As we read in the first chapter of this book, God created man in his image and likeness; male and female he created them, and he said: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gn 1:28). In the second description of creation, which is the first reading of today's liturgy, we read that woman was created from man. This is what Scripture says: "So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man'. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:21-24).
3. The language uses the anthropological categories of the ancient world, but it has extraordinary depth: it expresses the essential truths in a truly spectacular way. All that was later discovered by human reflection and scientific knowledge has done no more than confirm what already existed from the start.
The Book of Genesis reveals first and foremost the cosmic dimension of creation. Man's appearance occurred within the immense horizon of the creation of the whole cosmos: it is not accidental that this takes place on the last day of the world's creation. Man entered the Creator's work at the moment when all the conditions necessary for human life were in place. Man is one of the visible creatures; at the same time, however, in Sacred Scripture it is said that he alone was made "in the image and likeness of God". This wonderful union of body and spirit was a decisive innovation in the process of creation. With the human being, all the greatness of the visible creation gains a spiritual dimension. The intellect and will, knowledge and love — all this enters into the visible cosmos at the very moment of man's creation. It enters it showing, from the beginning, the compenetration of the life of the body with the life of the soul. Thus man leaves his father and mother, and is joined to his wife, to become one flesh; however this conjugal union is rooted at the same time in knowledge and love, that is, in the spiritual dimension.
The Book of Genesis speaks of all this in a language of its own which is, at the same time, marvellously simple and complete. Man and woman, called to live in the process of cosmic creation, appear on the threshold of their own vocation, bringing with them the ability to procreate in collaboration with God, who directly creates the soul of each new human being. Through mutual knowledge and love, and at the same time through physical union, they will call to life beings resembling themselves and, like them, created "in the image and likeness of God". They will give life to their own children, just as they received it from their parents. This is the truth, both simple and great, about the family, as it is presented in the pages of the Book of Genesis and of the Gospel: in God's plan, marriage — indissoluble marriage — is the basis of a healthy and responsible family.
4. In a brief incisive way, Christ describes in the Gospel the original plan of God the Creator. This plan is also found in the Letter to the Hebrews proclaimed in the second reading: "For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin" (Heb 2:10-11). The creation of man has its basis in this eternal Word of God. God called everything to life through the action of this Word, the eternal Son, through whom everything was created. Man too was created through the Word and was created male and female. The marriage covenant originates in the eternal Word of God. In him the family was created. In him the family is eternally conceived, imagined and realized by God. Through Christ it acquires its sacramental character, its sanctification.
The text of the Letter to the Hebrews recalls that the sanctification of marriage, like that of any other human reality, was accomplished by Christ at the price of his Passion and Cross. He reveals himself here as the new Adam. Just as in the natural order we all descend from Adam, so in the order of grace and sanctification, we all originate in Christ. The sanctification of the family stems from the sacramental character of marriage.
He who sanctifies — that is, Christ — and all those who are to be sanctified — you, fathers and mothers; you, families — appear together before God the Father ardently to ask that he will bless what he has accomplished in you through the sacrament of marriage. This prayer includes all married couples and families who live on the earth. God, the one Creator of the universe, is in fact the source of life and holiness.
5. Parents and families of the whole world, let me say to you: God calls you to holiness! He himself has chosen you "before the creation of the world", St Paul tells us, to "be holy and blameless before him ... through Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:4). He loves you passionately, he desires your happiness, but he wants you to be always able to combine fidelity with happiness, because one cannot exist without the other. Do not let a hedonistic mentality, ambition and selfishness enter your homes. Be generous with God. I cannnot fail to recall, once again, that the family, "as an 'intimate community of life and love' [is] at the service of the Church and of society" (Familiaris consortio, 50). The mutual gift of self, blessed by God and imbued with faith, hope and love, will enable both spouses to achieve perfection and sanctification. In other words, it will serve as the sanctifying centre of one's own family and of spreading the work of evangelizing the whole Christian home.
Dear brothers and sisters, what an immense task you have before you! Be bearers of peace and joy within the family; grace elevates and perfects love and with it grants you the indispensable family virtues of humility, the spirit of service and sacrifice, parental and filial affection, respect and mutual understanding. And since the good is self-diffusive, I also hope that your support of the family apostolate will be, as far as possible, an incentive to spread generously the gift that is in you, first to your children then among those couples — perhaps relatives and friends — who are far from God or who are experiencing moments of misunderstanding or distrust. On the journey towards the Jubilee of the Year 2000, I invite all those listening to me to strengthen their faith and witness as Christians, so that with God's grace there may be true conversion and personal renewal in all the world's families. May the spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth reign in all Christian homes!
Families of Brazil, of Latin America and of the whole world, the Pope and the Church trust in you. Have trust: God is with us!"