Families Have Role in Pastoral Ministry, Says Pope

Addresses Priests, Parents on Common Root and Mission of Vocations

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ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The family is much more than a "recipient" of pastoral work. It has its own role to play in witnessing to the love of Christ for the world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this observation Sunday when he visited Ancona to close the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

The Holy Father addressed a group of priests and families, pointing out to them the "beauty of the harmony and complementarity of your different vocations."

"I would like to pause briefly on the need to lead holy orders and matrimony back to their unique Eucharistic source," he said. "Both states of life have -- in the love of Christ, who gives himself for the salvation of humanity -- the same root; they are called to a common mission: to give witness and to make present this love."

The Pontiff discouraged a "reductive vision of the family, which considers it as a mere recipient of pastoral work."

"It is true that, in this difficult time, the family needs particular care," he acknowledged. "Not because of this, however, must its identity be diminished or its specific responsibility be denied. The family is richness for the spouses, most irreplaceable for children, the indispensable foundation of society, and a vital community for the journey of the Church."

Help one another

Benedict XVI encouraged both priests and parents to be a mutual support.

He reminded priests that they must be a "living sign that points to Christ Jesus, the only Good Shepherd." And, he said, "the priest also has a spousal dimension; it is to be lost in the heart of Christ the Spouse, who gives his life for the Church his Bride."

"Encourage spouses, share their educational responsibilities, help them to continually renew the grace of their marriage. Make the family a protagonist in pastoral work," the Pope told them.

The Holy Father told spouses, meanwhile, to "love your priests, [and] express to them your appreciation for the service they carry out."

"May you be able also to bear with their limitations," he said, "without ever ceasing to ask them to be exemplary ministers among you, who speak to you of God and who lead you to him. Your fellowship is for them a valuable spiritual help and support in the trials of life."

Glory of God

Both priests and parents must find the strength for their vocations in the Eucharist, the Pope affirmed.

To priests, he said: "May the daily and faithful celebration of the Eucharist be the place to obtain the strength to give of yourselves every day in the ministry and to live constantly in the presence of God: He is your abode and heritage."

And to spouses: "May the Eucharistic Mystery influence ever more profoundly your daily life: You will draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament for your conjugal relationship and for the educational mission to which you are called."

"Dear priests and dear spouses," the Pope exhorted, "may you be able to find always in Holy Mass the strength to live your membership in Christ and his Church, in forgiveness and in the gift of self and in gratitude. May your daily work have its origin and center in sacramental communion, so that all is done for the glory of God."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-33407?l=english