Prepared speech of the Holy Father
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you and I offer a warm greeting to you and to your President, whom I thank for his words. This encounter allows me to meet your organization, the Forum of Families, up close. Founded 25 years ago, it embraces overall more than 500 associations, and is truly a network which highlights the beauty of communion and the power of sharing. It is a special “family of families”, of an associative type, through which you experience the joy of co-existence and at the same time you commit yourselves to assume the burden of the common good, to be built each day both in the environment of the Forum, and that of the broader society.
The family, which you foster in various ways, is at the centre of God’s plan, as the entire history of salvation shows. Through a mysterious divine plan, the complementarity and the love between man and woman make them co-operators of the Creator, who entrusts them with the task of bringing new creatures to life, taking to heart their growth and education. Jesus’ love for children, his filial relationship with the heavenly Father, his defence of the marriage bond, which he declares sacred and indissoluble, fully reveals the family’s place in God’s plan: being the cradle of life and the first place of welcome and of love, it plays an essential role in mankind’s vocation and is like a window which opens wide onto the very mystery of God, who is Love in the unity and in the trinity of the Persons.
Our world, often tempted and guided by individualistic and selfish reasoning, often loses the meaning and the beauty of stable bonds, of commitment to people, of unconditional care, of assuming responsibility for the good of the other, of gratuitousness and of self-giving. For this reason one has difficulty in comprehending the value of the family, and one ends up understanding it according to the same reasoning that privileges individual interests instead of relationships and the common good. And this is despite the fact that in the recent years of economic crisis the family has represented the most powerful shock absorber, capable of redistributing resources according to the needs of each person.
On the contrary, full recognition and appropriate support of the family should be the top priority of civil institutions, called to promote the formation of sound, serene families who attend to their children’s education and who compensate for situations of weakness. Indeed, those who learn to experience authentic relationships in the sphere of the family will be better able to exercise them in the broadest contexts, from school to the world of work; and those who practice it in a spirit of respect and service at home, will be better able to practice it also in society and in the world.
Now, the objective of stronger support for families and a more appropriate appreciation of them, should be reached through a tireless effort toward raising awareness and dialogue. This is the task that the Forum has carried out for 25 years, in which you have accomplished a great deal of initiatives, establishing a relationship of trust and cooperation with the institutions. I exhort you to continue this work, by promoting projects which demonstrate the beauty of the family, and which are attractive because they are convincing, since their importance and value are evident.
Thus I encourage you to witness to the joy of love, which I explained in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, where I harvested the fruits of the providential journey of the Synod on the Family, which was carried out by the whole Church. Indeed, there is no better subject than joy which, radiating from the inside, proves the value of ideas and experience and points to the treasure that we have discovered and wish to share.
Therefore, impelled by this force, you will be ever more ready to take the initiative. The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). May this be the spirit which animates you too, teaching you respect but also courage, to accept the challenge and seek out new paths, without fear. It is the style I have asked of the entire Church since my first and programmatic Apostolic Exhortation, when I used the term “primerear” [“take the initiative”], which suggests the capacity to go with courage to encounter others, not to close oneself in one’s comfort zone but to look for points of convergence with people, to build bridges by going to discover goodness wherever it may be found (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 24). God is the first to primerear with us: if we have truly met him, we cannot hide, but rather we must go out and act, using our talents.
Thank you for making the effort to do so! Thank you for your generous dedication, in line with your Statute, for the “active and responsible participation of families in the cultural, social and political life” (2.1.b), and for the “promotion of appropriate family policies that protect and support the functions of the family and its rights” (2.1.c). May you continue, moreover, in the school environment, to favour greater parental involvement and to encourage many families to a style of participation. Never tire of supporting the growth of the birth rate in Italy, by raising awareness in institutions and in public opinion of the importance of giving life to policies and structures more open to the gift of children. It is a real paradox that the birth of children, which constitutes the greatest investment for a country and the first condition of its future prosperity, often is a cause of poverty for families, due to the inadequate support they receive or to the inefficiency of many services.
These and other problems must be addressed with determination and charity, demonstrating that the sensitivity that you carry forth regarding the family is not to be labelled as confessional in order to accuse it — wrongly — of partiality. It is instead based on the dignity of the human person and therefore must be recognized and shared by all, as when, also in institutional contexts, the “Family Factor” is referred to as that element of political and operative evaluation, the multiplier of human, economic and social richness.
I thank you again for this meeting. I exhort you to continue in your commitment in service to the family and life, and I invoke upon all members of the Forum God’s blessing and the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Please, do not forget to pray for me.