VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2005 ( Benedict XVI expressed his deep concern about the future of society and the family, in an address to new ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

"Secular distortions of marriage can never overshadow the splendor of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love," he said Thursday when receiving the letters of credence of Geoffrey Ward, New Zealand's new ambassador to the Holy See.

In his English-language address, Benedict XVI quoted Pope John Paul II and said that "correct reason tells them [New Zealanders] that 'the future of humanity passes by way of the family,' which offers society a secure foundation for its aspirations."

That same day, the Holy Father also referred to the family when he addressed the new ambassador from Switzerland, Jean-François Kammer.

The Pope mentioned the proposal of new laws that touch on areas such as the transmission of life; sickness; and the end of life; as well as the family and respect for marriage.

Human dignity

"On all these questions, which refer to fundamental values," Benedict XVI said, "the Catholic Church has expressed herself clearly through the voice of her pastors, and she will continue to do so, as long as necessary, to remind ceaselessly about the inalienable grandeur of human dignity, which calls for respect of human rights and above all the right to life."

The Swiss bishops' conference opposed a recent referendum to give homosexual couples some rights proper to marriage. The referendum won a 58% approval at the polls.