France's Youth Urged to Be Open to Marriage

Commitment Doesn’t Interfere with Freedom, Say Bishops

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PARIS, NOV. 13, 2002 ( French bishops have appealed to young people to be open to marriage.

In a message entitled «Marriage, an Act of Hope,» the bishops exhort: «Young people, do not be afraid of marriage. True freedom excludes fear of commitment or rejection of commitment.»

Writing with a spontaneity uncommon in such documents, the bishops continue: «On the contrary! Learn to discover the joy and enrichment of the gift given without expectation of return. In marriage, God commits himself with you and the Church stands beside you.»

The bishops cite marriage as «the only basis on which a family can be founded,» as «the free and irrevocable commitment» of the spouses provides «the best way» to «educate children in stability.»

«Founded in this way, the family is the child’s first venue of socialization,» the message says. «To the greatest extent possible, we all must support and encourage those who assume this commitment.»

The appeal also calls on political authorities to help families with «legal, economic, administrative, cultural and educational» services.

The question of marriage has been a principal theme for the French bishops’ conference, whose meeting in Lourdes ended Saturday. The bishops’ message responds to data that fewer and fewer couples each year choose to get married in the Church. Church data say 122,580 Catholic marriages were celebrated in the year 2000. In 1990 there were 147,146.

Yet the bishops conclude their statement with a powerful note of hope: «Young people, future spouses, we say to you once again: Have confidence! Build your life in hope with Jesus!»

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