By Anita Bourdin
ROME, FEB. 6, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “To destroy the family is to destroy society,” said the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, on the occasion of a colloquium organized in Cotonou, Benin, in cooperation with the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family.
The Jan. 24-26 colloquium marked the 10th anniversary of the Africa Family Life Federation (AFLF). The closing ceremony was presided over by Cardinal Robert Sarah of Kinakry, Guinea, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
Dany Sauvage, AFLF’s president, explained to ZENIT that the meeting in Cotonou was organized for the anniversary. “Some of the personalities of the Church came to celebrate” it with AFLF’s members.
AFLF, she said, is a federation of some 20 associations of African Family Action, spread over 19 countries of the continent.
In regard to the federation’s mission, Sauvage added that “AFLF believes that man’s integral plenitude is realized in the family, sanctuary of life and love.”
“Its mission is to develop the abilities of its member associations,” the representative added. “The latter educate young people to life and love, promote conjugal and family values, and teach a responsible maternity/paternity according to God’s plan for the couple and the family.”
To destroy society
Cardinal Monsengwo, who presided over the meeting, said that AFLF’s place in Africa “is very important.” In fact, “for 30 years the family has experienced profound changes moving always in the sense of a progressive destruction of the family cell. For many, marital stability is not an ideal,” he said.
The cardinal affirmed the social role of the family in these terms: “Every society needs the family, [its] primordial cell, as does the Church. We know that the family is born of an indissoluble and faithful marriage, it is, for the spouses, a place of encounter with God.”
The archbishop of Kinshasa stressed the importance of this reality for society. From the moment that we evade marriage and the family — this dimension of mystery inherent in the divine economy — all deviations are possible: violence, mistreatment of a spouse, irresponsible paternity and maternity. To destroy the family is to destroy society; to destroy the family is to destroy the Church. Marriage and the family are the greatest gift that God has given humanity so that it will really be in his image, said Cardinal Monsengwo.
“AFLF’s agents in my country and in the rest of the African countries seek to teach on the ground the Good News of the Church on sexuality; they evangelize human love,” stressed the cardinal.
Another participant in the colloquium was Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Prague, former missionary who worked for 21 years in Rwanda, where he took part in the creation of the Rwandan Family Action association and was co-founder of AFLF.
Archbishop Hoser stressed that AFLF’s activity is founded on the long-standing work of its predecessors in family action. He recalled the commitment of different pioneers, and he expressed his joy over the fact that “AFLF has grown, reaching maturity: a real gift of God!”
The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Bishop Jean Laffitte, took part in the meeting to bring a message of encouragement to the participants. “The Church has always been interested in the family. Blessed John Paul II has left us a wonderful legacy on the subject of the family. Our Pope, Benedict XVI, continues to contribute, with his encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est,’ an important explanation on Divine Love, on eros and agape. Eros is understood only when the union between body and spirit is totally fulfilled. Here is a real maturity of the eros, a purification. Eros and agape cannot be disassociated. This is true in man, because mysteriously it is true for God. Marriage founded on an exclusive and definitive love, open to the transmission of life, becomes the icon of the relationship of God with his people and, reciprocally, the measure with which God loves becomes the measure of human love.”