Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In order to be properly prepared for the Great Jubilee, the
Christian community should be seriously committed to
rediscovering the value of the family and marriage (cf. Tertio
millennio adveniente, n. 51). This is all the more urgent since
today this value is questioned at many levels of culture and
Not only are certain models of family life being challenged,
which change under the pressure of social transformations and
new working conditions. It is the concept itself of the family,
as a community founded on marriage between a man and a woman,
that is attacked in the name of ethical relativism, which is
spreading in wide areas of public opinion and in civil
The crisis of the family becomes, in turn, a cause of the crisis
in society. Many pathological phenomena - from loneliness to
violence and drugs - are also due to the fact that families have
lost their identity and purpose. Wherever the family falls
apart, society loses its connective tissue with disastrous
consequences that affect individuals, especially the weakest:
from children to adolescents, to the handicapped, the sick and
the elderly, etc.
2. It is therefore necessary to encourage a reflection that will
help not only believers, but all people of good will to
rediscover the value of marriage and the family. In the
Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: "The family is the
original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which
husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in
the gift of life. Authority, stability and a life of
relationships within the family constitute the foundations for
freedom, security and fraternity within society" (n. 2207).
Reason itself can rediscover the family by listening to the
moral law inscribed in the human heart. As a community "which is
founded and given life by love" (cf. Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris consortio, n. 18), the family draws its strength from
the definitive covenant of love by which a man and a woman give
themselves to each other, becoming together God's collaborators
in the gift of life.
On the basis of this fundamental relationship of love, the
relationships that are established with and among the other
family members must also be inspired by love and marked by
affection and mutual support. Far from closing the family in on
itself, genuine love opens it to all society, since the little
domestic family and the great family of all human beings are not
in opposition, but in a close and primordial relationship. At
the root of all this is the very mystery of God, which the
family evokes in a special way. Indeed, as I wrote a few years
ago in my Letter to Families, "in the light of the New Testament
it is possible to discern how the primordial model of the family
is to be sought in God himself, in the Trinitarian mystery of
his life. The divine "We' is the eternal pattern of the human
"we', especially of that "we' formed by the man and the woman
created in the divine image and likeness" (n. 6).
3. God's fatherhood is the transcendent source of all human
fatherhood and motherhood. As we lovingly contemplate it, we
feel impelled to rediscover that wealth of communion,
procreation and life that characterize marriage and the family.
In families, interpersonal relations develop in which each
member is entrusted with a specific task, although without rigid
patterns. I do not intend to refer here to those social and
functional roles which are expressions of specific historical
and cultural contexts. I am thinking, rather, of the importance,
in the mutual conjugal relationship and the shared parental
commitment, of man and woman as they are called to realize their
natural characteristics in the context of a deep, enriching and
respectful communion. "To this "unity of the two' God has
entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life, but
the creation of history itself" (Letter to women, n. 8).
4. Children, then, must be seen as the greatest expression of
the communion between man and woman, or rather of their
reciprocal receiving/giving which is fulfilled and transcended
in a "third", in the child himself. A child is a blessing from
God. He transforms husband and wife into father and mother (cf.
Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, n. 21). Both "come
out of themselves" and express themselves in a person, which,
although the fruit of their love, goes beyond them.
The ideal expressed in the priestly prayer of Jesus, in which he
asks that his unity with the Father be extended to the disciples
(cf. Jn 17: 11) and to those who believe through their word (cf.
Jn 17: 20-21), applies to the family in a special way. Christian
families, "domestic churches" (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 11), are
especially called to achieve this ideal of perfect communion.
5. Therefore, as we reach the end of this year dedicated to
meditation on God the Father, let us rediscover the family in
the light of the divine fatherhood. Our contemplation of God the
Father prompts an urgent concern which is particularly in
keeping with the challenges of this moment in history.
Looking at God the Father means understanding the family as a
place where life is welcomed and nurtured, a workshop of
brotherhood where, with the help of Christ's Spirit, "a new
fraternity and solidarity, a true reflection of the mystery of
mutual self-giving and receiving proper to the Most Holy
Trinity" (Evangelium vitae, n. 76) is created among men.
From the experience of renewed Christian families, the Church
herself can learn how to foster among all the members of the
community a more family-like dimension, by accepting and
encouraging a more human and fraternal style of relationship
(cf. Familiaris consortio, n. 64).