VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2004 ( At a time when new "family" models are being proposed, John Paul II says that the marital union between a man and a woman is part of God's plan itself.

"Marriage and the family cannot be considered as a simple product of historical circumstances, or a superstructure imposed from outside on human love," the Pope said today when meeting with the parish priests of his diocese, Rome.

"On the contrary, they [the family and marriage] are an interior need of this love, so that it can be realized in its truth and in its fullness of mutual self-giving," the Holy Father said in the address he prepared for the meeting, although eventually he preferred to speak spontaneously.

"Even the characteristics of conjugal union, which today are often unknown or rejected, such as its unity, its indissolubility, and its openness to life, are, on the contrary, necessary for the pact of love to be authentic," John Paul II explained.

"Precisely in this way the bond that unites man and woman becomes the image and symbol of the covenant between God and his People, which finds in Jesus Christ its definitive fulfillment," he added. "Because of this, among the baptized, marriage is a sacrament, an efficacious sign of grace and salvation."

To understand the family and to help it, it is necessary to go back to its "source," namely, "to God, who is Love and who lives within himself a mystery of a personal communion of love," John Paul II explained.

"In creating humanity out of love in his image, God inscribed in man and woman the vocation and, consequently, the capacity and responsibility of love and communion," he said.

"This vocation can be realized in two specific ways: marriage and virginity," the Holy Father said. "Both are, therefore, each one in its proper form, a concretization of the most profound truth of man, of his being image of God."

"God's plan has not changed, who has inscribed in man and woman the vocation to love and to the family. Today the action of the Holy Spirit is no less intense, gift of Christ, dead and risen," he continued.

"And no error, no sin, no ideology, no human deceit can do away with the profound structure of our being, which needs to be loved and in turn is capable of truly loving," the Pope added.

Although the Pope did not read these words, he asked the priests to read them later in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper.