On the Pastoral Visit to Milan for Family Meeting

Love is the Only Force that Can Transform the World

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. Today the Holy Father reviewed his trip of last Friday through Sunday to Milan for the 7th World Meeting of Families.

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“The family, work and celebration”: this was the theme of the Seventh World Meeting of Families, which took place in recent days in Milan. I still carry in my mind’s eye and in my heart the images and emotions of this unforgettable and marvelous event, which transformed Milan into a city of families: families from around the world, united by the joy of believing in Jesus Christ. I am deeply grateful to God for having granted me the experience of this meeting “with” families and “for” the family. In all those who listened to me during these days I found a sincere readiness to receive and give witness to the “Gospel of the family”. Yes, there is no future for humanity without the family; in order to learn the values that give meaning to life, the young in particular need to be born and raised in that community of life and love which God Himself has willed for man and for woman.

The encounter with numerous families from the various Continents offered me the joyous occasion to visit the Archdiocese of Milan for the first time as the Successor of Peter. Cardinal Angelo Scola, priests and faithful alike, as well as the Mayor and other civil authorities welcomed me with great warmth – and for this I am deeply grateful. Thus I was able to experience up close the faith of the Ambrosian people, with their wealth of history, culture, humanity and active charity. The first meeting of this intense three-day pastoral visit took place in the Piazza del Duomo, the symbol and heart of the city. I cannot forget the warm embrace of the crowds of Milanese and participants in the VII World Meeting of Families, who accompanied me throughout the entire course of my visit, the streets thronged with people.

A sea of families on holiday with sentiments of profound participation united themselves particularly to the warm and supportive greetings I wished to address at once to all those who are in need of help and comfort and who are plagued by various concerns, especially families most affected by the economic crisis and the dear people struck by the recent earthquakes. During this first meeting with the city, I first wished to speak to the hearts of the Ambrosian faithful, exhorting them to live the faith in their personal and communal lives, in their private and public lives, so as to favor an authentic “well-being”, beginning with the family, which must be rediscovered as humanity’s principle patrimony. From high atop the cathedral, the statue of Our Lady with arms outstretched seemed to welcome with maternal tenderness all the families of Milan and of the whole world!

Milan then gave me a unique and noble greeting in one of city’s most evocative and significant locations, La Scala theatre, where important pages in the country’s history were written under the impulse of great spiritual values and ideals. In this temple of music, the notes of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony gave voice to this moment of universality and fraternity, which the Church untiringly proposes by announcing the Gospel. At the end of the concert, I made reference to the contrast between this ideal and the dramas of history, and to the existence of a God who is near and who shares in our sufferings, dedicating the concert to the many brothers and sisters who have been tried by earthquakes. I emphasized that -- in Jesus of Nazareth -- God draws near to us and carries our sufferings with us.  At the conclusion of this intense artistic and spiritual moment, I wished to refer to the family of the third millennium, by recalling that it is within the family that we experience for the first time that the human person is not created to live enclosed within himself, but in relationships with others; and it is in the family that the light of peace is first set aflame in our hearts so that it might illumine our world.

The following day, in the cathedral filled with priests, religious and seminarians, and in the presence of the many cardinals and bishops who came to Milan from various countries of the world, I celebrated Terce according to the Ambrosian liturgy. There I wished to confirm the value of celibacy and of consecrated virginity, which were so dear to the great St. Ambrose. Within the Church, celibacy and virginity are a luminous sign of love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters, and are born of an increasingly intimate relationship with Christ in prayer and are expressed in the total gift of self.

A moment filled with great enthusiasm was the meeting at the Meazza stadium, where I experienced the welcome of a joyous multitude of young people who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this year. The careful preparation of the event, with meaningful texts and prayers and choreography, made the encounter even more stimulating. I addressed an appeal to the Ambrosian youth to give a free and conscious “yes” to the Gospel of Jesus, by receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which allow them to be formed as Christians, to live the Gospel and to be active members of the community. I encouraged them to be committed particularly to their studies and to the generous service of those around them.

The meeting with representatives of institutional authorities, with employers and workers, and with the world of culture and education in Milan and Lombardy society allowed me to highlight the importance of legislation and the work of state institutions being ordered to the service and protection of the person in his various aspects, beginning with the right to life, the deliberate suppression of which can never be allowed, and the acknowledgement of the proper identity of the family, founded on marriage between one man and one woman.

Following this last appointment dedicated to the state of the diocese and city, I went to the great area of the Northern Park in the region of Bresso, where I took part in the exciting Feast of Testimonies entitled “One world, family, love”. There I had the joy of meeting thousands of people, a rainbow of families from Italy and across the globe, who had already gathered on the first afternoon in an atmosphere of festivity and authentic family warmth. In responding to the questions of several families -- questions arising out of their lives and experience -- I wished to give a sign of the open dialogue that exists between families and the Church, between the world and the Church. I was very struck by the touching testimonies of spouses and children from various continents, on the burning issues of our time: the economic crisis, the challenge of reconciling time for work with time for family, the spread of separation and divorce, as well as existential questions that affect adults, youth and children. Here I would like to recall what I stated in defense of family time, which is threatened by a kind of “overbearance” of work commitments: Sunday is the Lord’s day and man’s day, a day when everyone should be able to be free, free for family and free for God. In defending Sunday, we defend man’s freedom!

The Holy Mass on Sunday June 3, which concluded the Seventh World Meeting of Families, saw the participation of an immense praying assembly who completely filled the area of the Bresso airport, which became an great open-air cathedral, thanks also to the reproduction of the stupendous stained glass windows of Milan’s Cathedral that stood in the sanctuary. Before a myriad of faithful from various nations who participated deeply in the liturgy which was very well coordinated, I made an appeal to build ecclesial communities that are increasingly family oriented and capable of reflecting the beauty of the Most Holy Trinity and of evangelizing not only with words, but by radiating the strength of love lived, for love is the only force that can transform the world. I also emphasized the importance of the “triad” of family, work and celebration. They are three gifts of God, three dimensions of our lives that must find a harmonious equilibrium in order to build a society with a human face.

I am deeply grateful for these magnificent days in Milan. Thanks to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli and to the Pontifical Council for the Family, to all the civil authorities for their presence and collaboration in the event. Thanks also to the President of the Council of Ministers and the Republic of Italy for having participated in the Holy Mass on Sunday. And I renew my cordial “thanks” to the various institutions that generously cooperated with the Holy See and with the Archdiocese of Milan in organizing the Meeting, which enjoyed great pastoral and ecclesial success and whose echo resounded throughout the entire world. In fact, the event drew more than a million people to Milan. For several days, they peacefully invaded the streets and witnessed to the beauty of the family -- the hope for humanity.

The World Meeting in Milan was an eloquent “epiphany” of the family, which manifested itself in its variety of expressions but in the uniqueness of its essential identity: a communion of love, founded on marriage and called to be a sanctuary of life, a domestic Church, a cell of society. From Milan, a message of hope was sent out to all the world, substantiated by lived experience: it is possible and joyous, even if demanding, to live faithful love “for ever” which is open to life; it is possible to participate as a family in the mission of the Church and in the building up of society. With God’s help and the special protection of Most Holy Mary, the Queen of Families, may the Milan experience bear abundant fruits in the Church’s journey and be a sign of greater attention to the cause of the family, which is the cause of man and of civilization. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In Italian, he said:]

My thoughts go to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Dear young people, may God’s faithful love be the model of your love for your brothers and sisters; dear sick, you are never alone in your suffering but the whole Church prays for you and with you; lastly, dear newlyweds, may the communion of love that God lives in Himself always be the foundation of your married and family life.

Lastly, I would like to recall that tomorrow, as every year on the feast of Corpus Domini, the Holy Mass will be celebrated at St. John Lateran at 7pm. At the conclusion, a solemn procession will follow, travelling along the Via Merulana and concluding at St. Mary Major. I invite all the faithful of Rome and all pilgrims to be united in this act of profound faith in the Eucharist, which constitutes the most precious treasure of the Church of humanity.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]