Papal Address to Centesimus Annus Foundation

«The Relationship Between Family and Work»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to participants in the annual conference of the Centesimus Annus Foundation.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very happy to receive you on the occasion of the annual congress of the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation, which has gathered you for two days of study on the topic of the relationship between family and work. I thank the president, Dr. Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, for the courteous words he addressed to me, and I greet you all cordially.

As was noted, this year marks the 20th anniversary Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus, published 100 years after Rerum Novarum, as well as the 30th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio. This double celebration makes your topic even more timely and opportune. In these 120 years of development of the Social Doctrine of the Church, great changes have taken place in the world, which could not even be imagined at the time of the historic encyclical of Pope Leo XIII. However, though external conditions have changed, the internal patrimony of the social magisterium has not changed. It always promotes the human person and the family, in its context of life and also that of business.

The Second Vatican Council spoke of the family in terms of a domestic Church, an «untouchable shrine» where a person matures in his affections, in solidarity, in spirituality. Economy as well, with its laws, must always consider the interests of this primary cell of society and safeguard it; the word «economy» itself in its etymological origin contains a claim to the importance of the family: oikia and nomos, the law of the home.

In the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Blessed John Paul II indicated four duties for the family institution, which I would like to recall briefly: the formation of a community of persons; service to life; participation in society and participation in the Church. All of these are functions at whose base is love, and it is to this that a family is educated and formed. «The love between husband and wife,» the venerable Pontiff stated, «and, in a derivatory and broader way, the love between members of the same family-between parents and children, brothers and sisters and relatives and members of the household-is given life and sustenance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family» (No. 18). In the same way, love is at the base of the service to life, founded on the cooperation that the family gives to the continuity of creation, to the procreation of man made in the image and likeness of God.

And it is first in the family where correct behavior is learned, so as to live in society, also in the world of work, of economy, of business — which must be guided by caritas, in the logic of gratitude, of solidarity and of responsibility for one another. «The relationships between the members of the family community are inspired and guided by the law of ‘free giving,» John Paul II wrote. «By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity» (No. 43). From this perspective, the family passes from being a mere object to being an active subject capable of recalling the «human face» that the world of economy must have. If this is true for society in general, it assumes even greater importance in the ecclesial community. Also in evangelization, in fact, the family has an important place, as I recalled recently in Ancona: It is not, simply, the recipient of pastoral action, but is its protagonist, called to take part in evangelization in its own original way, putting at the service of the Church herself and of society its own being and action, as ann intimate community of life and love (cf. apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, No. 50). The family and work are privileged places for the fulfillment of the vocation of man, who collaborates in the creative work of God today.

As you noted in your addresses, in the difficult situation we are experiencing, we are unfortunately witnessing a crisis in work and in the economy, which is accompanied by a crisis in the family: the conflicts of couples, generational conflicts, conflicts occasioned between the times of the family and of work, occupational crises, create a complex situation of unease that influences social living itself.

A new harmonious synthesis between the family and work is therefore necessary, and the Social Doctrine of the Church can offer a valuable contribution. In the encyclical Caritas in Veritate I wished to highlight that the family model of the logic of love, of gratitude, and of gift goes together with a universal dimension. Commutative justice — «give to have» — and distributive justice — «give to owe» – are not sufficient in social living. To have true justice it is necessary to arrive at gratuitousness and solidarity. «Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place. (…) Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself» (No. 38).

«The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift» (No. 39). It is not the duty of the Church to define the ways to address the present crisis. However, Christians have the duty to denounce evils, to attest to and to keep alive the values on which the dignity of the person is founded, and to promote those ways of solidarity that foster the common good, so that humanity will become the family of God.

Dear friends, I hope that the reflections that have arisen in your conference will help you to assume ever more actively, your role in the spreading and implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Church, not forgetting that «development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us» (No. 79). With this hope, while I entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I impart to you and to your dear ones my wholehearted special Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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