Vatican City (Fides Service) - It is known to all that enthusiastic proclamation of the Gospel of the Family and of Life as “wonderful news” and, likewise, promotion of the dignity and mission of the ‘domestic church’, cradle of love and shrine of life, have a central place in the heart of the Holy Father.
The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio opened the minds and hearts of Catholics to new pastoral impulse in pastoral care of the family all over the world. In the doctrinal wealth of Pope John Paul II’s fruit bearing teaching we cannot fail to recall as essential references, two other documents: the Letter to Families Gratissimam sane on the occasion of the Year of the Family and the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae a most vigorous proclamation of the Gospel of Life.
It is impossible in a few lines to summarise the abundance and richness of his teaching on the themes of matrimony, the family, defence of life, from the moment of conception to natural death. The Pope never ceases to reaffirm these themes during his pastoral visits, in homilies, speeches, messages to Bishops, movements, various instances secular and civil, and in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
The Holy Father has given remarkable impulse to pastoral care of the family and of life. He recalls that in the diocese the Bishop is the first to be responsible (cfr FC 73), he urges dioceses and Bishops’ Conferences to set up bodies of family pastoral to co-ordinate and give impulse to families, parishes and movements, in view of more organic pastoral care in its diverse manifestations (cfr Speech to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, 30 January 1993).
Besides devoting his teaching to the family the Holy Father has not failed to promote institutional aspects. Following the spirit of renewal of the Synod for the Family, he elevated what was formerly the Committee for the Family to the rank of Council, moreover he instituted the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family which bears his name and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Worthy of special mention, the Holy Father’s proclamation in 1994 of the Year of the Family in the Church on the occasion of the indiction by the United Nations of the International Year of the Family.
On that occasion the Pope asked for a World Meeting of Families to be held in Rome on the theme “The Family, Heart of the Civilisation of Love” and for similar events to be held every three years. In 1997 in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) the 2nd World Meeting of Families was held with the theme “The Family: gift and commitment, hope of humanity”, in 2003 the 4th World Meeting was celebrated in Manila, Philippines, with the theme “The Christian Family, Good News for the Third Millennium”.
During the Holy Year 2000, the Jubilee for Families coincided with the 3rd World Meeting of Families in Rome with the theme: “Children, springtime of the Family and Society”. The 5th World Meeting of Families has been convoked by the Holy Father for 2006 in Valencia, Spain.
What is more, this tireless activity in favour of the family, founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, has had repercussions even outside the Church, with particular incidence in the life of civil societies, in state and political institutions, in both the national and international field.
In brief the Pope of the Family, as John Paul II has been described, has strenuously defended the values of marriage, the family, human life which find expression in the Charter of Family Rights 1983, through his appeal for a “culture of life” and condemnation of the “culture of death”; also through the proclamation of the right to life and the rights of the family against any form of manipulation of human procreation, population control or dominion by rich nations over the world’s poorest countries, as well as many other questions of planetary impact. Not lacking have been interventions and concrete, opportune and appropriate initiatives: I mention for example his appeal to Heads of State on the occasion of the International Conference on Population and Development organised by the United Nations in Cairo in 1994.
John Paul II: a Pope who has changed the course of the history of peoples, including the fundamental and delicate course of the family and human life. (Fides Service 14/10/2003)