Aiding Families a Priority for Priests, Says John Paul II

Addresses Clergy of Rome Diocese

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says that assistance to families should be one of the main priorities of priests.



The Pope expressed that conviction today when meeting with priests of the Diocese of Rome at a traditional start-of-Lent audience.

The family is an integral part of God's plan, the Holy Father said. "Man and woman he created them," which means "love and responsibility. From these two words spring all the consequences," the Pope said.

"I learned a long time ago, since I was in Krakow, to live close to couples, to families," he said, recalling his days as a priest and archbishop in Poland.

"I have also followed closely the path that leads two persons, a man and a woman, to create a family and, with marriage, to become spouses, parents, with all the consequences we know," he added.

The Holy Father, who spoke spontaneously, asked the priests to read the address he had prepared for the occasion in L'Osservatore Romano. In that address he invited them "to recognize the central character of the family in God's plan for the human being and, therefore, in the life of the Church and of society."

"Let us never tire of proposing, announcing, witnessing this great truth of love and of Christian marriage," the Pontiff said in his written address.

"Your responsibility with families not only encompasses moral and liturgical problems, but also those of a personal and social character," he wrote. "You are called, in particular, to support the family in its difficulties and sufferings, approaching its members and helping them to live their life of spouses, parents and children in the light of the Gospel."

He continued: "Do not be afraid, therefore, to give families of your time and energies, spiritual talents that the Lord has given you. Be attentive friends to them, worthy of their trust, in addition to pastors and teachers."

"Accompany them and support them in prayer; propose with truth and love, without reservations or arbitrary interpretations, the Gospel of marriage and the family," the Pope said. In difficulties, the priest must help the family understand "that the Church is always their mother, in addition to being their teacher," he added.

"Mistaken and often aberrant behavior, which is proposed publicly or that is even exhibited or exalted, as well as daily contact with the difficulties and crises that many families are going through, can awaken in us the temptation of distrust and resignation," John Paul II said in his address.

Thus he asked priests to overcome this temptation "with the help of God."

"God's plan has not changed, who has inscribed in man and woman the vocation to love and to family," the Pope continued. "The action of the Holy Spirit is no less intense today, gift of Christ, dead and risen."

He added: "No error, no sin, no ideology, no human deceit can do away with the profound structure of our being, which has need of being loved and in turn is capable of truly loving."