VATICAN CITY, JUNE 7, 2005 ( Marriage and the family are not human innovations, but rather form part of the very nature of man and woman, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope discussed at length the Christian vision of the family on Monday when opening the Ecclesial Congress of the Diocese of Rome on "Family and Christian Community: Formation of the Person and Transmission of the Faith."

"Marriage and the family are not casual sociological constructs, fruits of a particular historical and economic situation," the Holy Father said. "On the contrary, the question of the right relationship between man and woman has its roots in the most profound essence of the human being, and can only find its answer in the latter."

The Bible presents man as "created in the image of God, and God himself is love. For this reason, the vocation to love is what makes man the authentic image of God: He becomes like God in the measure that he becomes someone who loves," Benedict XVI stated.

Theological character

The expression of love through sexuality is explained, he said, in "the indissoluble bond between spirit and body: Man is, in fact, soul that expresses itself in the body and body that is vivified by an immortal spirit."

He continued: "The body of man and of woman also has, therefore, so to speak, a theological character, it is not simply body, and what is biological in man is not only biological, but an expression and fulfillment of our humanity.

"Human sexuality is not next to our being person, but belongs to it. Only when sexuality is integrated in the person does it succeed in giving itself meaning."

The "yes" pronounced by the spouses in the marriage "means 'always'; it constitutes the area of fidelity," the Pope said.

Only in this fidelity "can this faith grow which gives a future and allows the children, fruit of love, to believe in man and in his future in difficult times," he stated.

Definitive gift

The highest expression of freedom is not, continued Benedict XVI, "the pursuit of pleasure, without ever arriving at a genuine decision. Seemingly this permanent openness appears to be the realization of freedom, but it is not true: The true expression of freedom is, on the contrary, the capacity to decide for a definitive gift, in which freedom, by surrendering itself, finds itself fully again.

"The personal and reciprocal 'yes' of man and woman opens space for the future, for the authentic humanity of each one, and at the same time is destined to the gift of a new life."

For this reason, "this personal 'yes' must necessarily be a 'yes' that is also publicly responsible, with which the spouses assume the public responsibility of faithfulness, which also guarantees the future of the community," the Holy Father said.

"None of us belongs exclusively to ourselves," he added. "Therefore, each one is called to assume in our deepest selves our public responsibility.

"Marriage, as an institution, is not therefore an undue interference of society or of the authorities, an imposition from outside in the most private reality of life; it is, on the contrary, an intrinsic exigency of the pact of conjugal love and of the depth of the human person.


"The different present forms of the dissolution of marriage, as well as free unions and 'trial marriage,' including the pseudo-marriage between persons of the same sex, are on the contrary expressions of an anarchic freedom that appears erroneously as man's authentic liberation."

The Pope said this pseudo-freedom is based on "a trivialization of the body, which inevitably includes the trivialization of man. Its assumption is that man can make of himself what he likes. Thus his body becomes something secondary, which can be manipulated from the human point of view, which can be used as one pleases."

He added: "Libertinism, which appears as discovery of the body and its value, is in reality a dualism that makes the body contemptible, leaving it, so to speak, outside the authentic being and dignity of the person."