VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2002 ( If marriage is not forever, it is not marriage, and without marriage the family, the very foundation of society, is undermined, John Paul II said today, when suggesting positive ways to combat the "divorce" mentality.

"The view of the indissolubility as a limitation to the liberty of the partners and, consequently, as a weight that at times can become unbearable, must be surmounted," the Holy Father said when evaluating last year´s activities of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, which among other things passes judgments on sentences of marital nullity.

John Paul II explained to the judges and lawyers that in this field, the challenge for the Church and for those who believe in conjugal love consists in making a "positive presentation of the indissoluble union in order to rediscover its beauty."

This will be achieved, the Pope added, if this beauty is witnessed "by families, ´domestic churches´ in which the husband and wife recognize mutually that they are bound to one another forever, with a bond that calls for an ever-renewed and generous love that is disposed to sacrifice."

"It is not possible to give in to the divorce mentality," the Holy Father told the members of the tribunal, while encouraging them to defend the beauty of marriage in their work.

"It might seem that divorce is so rooted in certain social environments, that it is no longer worthwhile to continue to combat it, by spreading a mentality, a social custom, and civil legislation in favor of indissolubility," John Paul II said.

"And yet, it is worthwhile! In fact, this good is part of the foundation of every society, as a necessary condition for the family´s existence," he exclaimed.

"Therefore, its absence has devastating consequences, which spread like a plague in the social body -- according to the term used by Vatican Council II to describe divorce -- and have a negative influence on the new generations for whom the beauty of authentic marriage is obfuscated," the Pope stressed. The text of his address cited "Gaudium et Spes," No. 47.

"The value of indissolubility cannot be considered as the object of a simple private choice: It affects one of the pillars of the whole society," the Holy Father emphasized.

Thus, John Paul II refuted "the rather widespread idea, according to which indissoluble marriage is proper for believers, but they cannot ´impose´ it on civil society as a whole."

Not only did the Bishop of Rome ask those who believe in the indissolubility of marriage to oppose juridical measures that introduce divorce, or that equate it with de facto unions ("including homosexual ones"), but he also suggested that they combine their action with "a positive attitude."

This new mentality should promote "juridical measures that tend to improve the social recognition of authentic marriage in the realm of juridical ordinances, which, unfortunately, allow divorce," John Paul II stressed.