During the celebration, in which some 1,000 priests and 60 bishops from Croatia and neighboring countries participated, the Pope encouraged Catholic families to love without reservations and to not be afraid of committing themselves for life in marriage.
"Dear families, be courageous," he exhorted in what was the most anticipated moment of his two-day trip. "Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage!"
"Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person," the Pontiff added.
The Holy Father encouraged families to also "rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood": "Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them!"
Treasure of the Church
Benedict XVI explained that "the good of the family is also the good of the Church," and that the "Christian family has always been the first way of transmitting the faith and still today retains great possibilities for evangelization in many areas."
In fact, he stated, "everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization."
In expressing his gratitude to the bishops of Croatia for initiating the National Day of Croation Catholic Families, the Holy Father noted that the family "has to face difficulties and threats, and thus has special need of evangelization and support."
The Pontiff underlined the importance of the family as it is a "decisive resource for education in the faith, for the up-building of the Church as a communion and for her missionary presence in the most diverse situations in life."
"Your daily labor for the faith formation of future generations, as well as for marriage preparation and for the accompaniment of families," he said to the bishops, "is the fundamental path for regenerating the Church anew and for giving life to the social fabric of the nation. May you remain dedicated to this important pastoral commitment!"
At the end of the Mass, and before praying the Marian prayer of the Regina Caeli, Benedict XVI invited those present to participate in the VII World Meeting of Families next May 29-June 3 in Milan.
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text of homily: www.zenit.org/article-32762?l=english
Full text of Regina Caeli address: www.zenit.org/article-32763?l=english