Help for Families a "Sacred Responsibility" of Church, Says Pope

Meets With Bishops From the U.S. Southwest

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2004 ( John Paul II reminded a group of U.S. bishops of their “sacred responsibility” to assist families in a society that is losing sight of the permanent nature of marriage.

On Saturday, when the Pope received the bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of San Antonio and Oklahoma City at the close of their five-yearly visit to Rome, he centered his address on the family as a way of sanctification.

“The Church teaches that the love of man and woman made holy in the sacrament of marriage is a mirror of God’s everlasting love for his creation,” he said.

The Holy Father encouraged the bishops “to continue to place a strong emphasis on marriage as a Christian vocation to which couples are called and to give them the means to live it fully through marital preparation programs which are serious in purpose, excellent in content, sufficient in length, and obligatory in nature.”

“In order to ensure that the family is capable of fulfilling this mission, the Church has a sacred responsibility to do all she can to assist married couples,” he said.

“A most effective way to accomplish this task is by assisting parents to become the first preachers of the Gospel and the main catechists in the family,” the Pope continued.

“This particular apostolate requires more than a mere academic instruction on family life; it requires the Church to share the hurts and struggles of parents and families, as well as their joys,” he said.

“Christian communities should thus make every effort to assist spouses in turning their families into schools of holiness by offering concrete support for family life ministry at the local level,” the Holy Father insisted.

“Modern society rarely pays heed to the permanent nature of marriage. In fact, the attitude towards marriage found in contemporary culture demands that the Church seek to offer better premarital instruction aimed at forming couples in this vocation,” he noted.

Moreover, it is critical that “Catholic schools and religious education programs guarantee that young people, many of whom are from broken families themselves, are educated from a very early age in the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of matrimony,” John Paul II said.

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