NEW ORLEANS — The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family urged the U.S. Catholic bishops to promote the message of the 2015 World Meeting of Families: that men and women are made for love.
“Please believe, and preach to your flocks, that it is most surely in the family that we see that our destiny is not loneliness, but rather love, mutually sustaining and fruitful,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told the bishops, who were gathered for their Spring General Assembly in New Orleans on June 11.
“The Gospel is always the only answer to the crying need, all over the world, for love. The Gospel of Jesus, and of the family, must overcome the loneliness that excludes real love and that is suffocating humanity today.”
Archbishop Paglia’s address concerned the upcoming World Meeting of Families, which is to be held Sept. 22-27, 2015, in Philadelphia.
The Vatican official was introduced by Philadelphia’s shepherd, Archbishop Charles Chaput, who asked that the bishops encourage families to attend the event. He noted that “its cost will easily run into the tens of millions of dollars.”
He added that while, “obviously, a papal visit is never official until the Holy See confirms it … we do have good reasons to believe that Pope Francis will take part in the meeting, and we are planning to welcome him wholeheartedly.”
The meeting “comes at a time when the Church in the U.S. urgently needs an opportunity for joy and renewal,” Archbishop Chaput said. “It is also a time of great confusion about the nature of marriage and family.”
He added that the goal is to “offer the beauty of Catholic teaching about marriage and the family with confidence and a spirit of invitation to every person of goodwill.”
Cultural Crisis in Family
Archbishop Paglia, whose pontifical council organizes the World Meeting of Families, then spoke, saying that it will be an “important element of the family synod process,” noting that there is a link among the crises in faith, families and society.
He said the crisis in families is, “above all, cultural” and based on the tendency to value the individual above all else: “The individual prevails over society, and the rights of the individual prevail over those of the family.”
The archbishop regretted that throughout the developed world, “laws reflect the primacy of the individual over the family. In this context, it is easy to understand how the family, as it has been understood for thousands of years, is ignored or is, worse yet, vilified and persecuted.”
The crisis in families has led to a society in which there are fewer families, he said, and more people who choose to live alone or to live in unions without any commitments.
“In addition, people today are convinced that they can ‘be family’ in all sorts of different ways. Any type of ‘living together’ can be called a family as long as there is ‘love,’” Archbishop Paglia continued. “With that approach, the family is not rejected, it is simply grouped among various other ways of living, with forms of relationship that might seem compatible with the family as the Church understands it, but that, in reality, demolish the family piece by piece.”
Despite all this, he emphasized, “the family will always be the most important resource for society. … No other form of living can create the positive relationships that are found in the family. No other form of relationship has such societal potentialities or such economic potential.”
“Nowhere else can humans fully learn and experience the solidarity that family ties provide and the mercy without which the other virtues lose much of their meaning,” the archbishop added.
The family is an “indispensable resource for society,” he said, quoting the first-century B.C. Roman philosopher Cicero, who called the family “the foundation of the city and, as it were, the seedbed of the commonwealth.”
“The family is at the heart of human development,” he said.
A New Springtime
Archbishop Paglia looked forward to the 2015 ordinary family synod, voicing hope that it “will bring forth a new spring for families and their joyous witness can overcome the individualism that is poisoning our lives. The synod’s real document will not be words: It will be witness, and we must invite to that witness all in the world who see in marriage, and in the family it produces, the perfection of our humanity and of society.”
The World Meeting of Families, which will take place shortly before the ordinary synod, “has to be a great celebration for families from all over the world,” he said. “We must show that it is possible, and beautiful, to create joyful and solid families, starting with families in America, Hispanic families in particular.”
He noted that Latino Catholic families are a model for the rest of the Church in the U.S., but added that their risk of falling away from the Church “is significant.”
“My brother bishops, as you welcome these new sisters and brothers in Christ, remember that only the joy of the Gospel, the Gospel of the family, will protect the Catholicism of this vital part of the Church in America.”
He added that “I also want our meeting to include — with their leaders — Eastern Catholic and Orthodox families and all communities of Christians (evangelical, Protestant and unaffiliated), as well as families from the world’s other religions, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and nonreligious families of goodwill. My brother bishops, please make this happen.”
Following Archbishop Paglia’s address, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, read an invitation formally inviting Pope Francis to attend Philadelphia’s World Meeting of Families, which the bishops greeted with hearty applause.