By Mirko Testa
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Church must offer the comfort of the Gospel of mercy toward persons who have experienced the consequences of divorce and abortion, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this Saturday upon meeting with experts and scholars who participated in an international congress that met in Rome to discuss pastoral solutions for those children who have been affected by the divorce of their parents, and for parents who are suffering the affects of the abortion of their children.
The two-day congress, titled “Oil on the Wounds: A Response to the Aftermath of Abortion and Divorce,” was organized by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family and the Knights of Columbus. It ended Saturday.
In his speech to the participants, Benedict XVI reflected on the crisis that the institution of the family is experiencing, and on the defense of the dignity of the person and of human life.
Sketching a cultural context marked by individualism, hedonism, and often minimal social support, the Pope pointed out that although it is a matter of “grave sins,” the Church must not forget to always offer the comfort of the Gospel of mercy.
In fact, he acknowledged, it is “human freedom” that, “faced with the difficulties of life, is led in its fragility to painful decisions.” The Holy Father added that these decisions often conflict with the respect that is due to human life or the indissoluble conjugal pact.
“The Church,” the Pontiff said, “has the primary duty of approaching these persons with love and delicacy, with maternal care and attention, to announce the merciful nearness of God in Jesus Christ.”
“He is in fact, as the Fathers teach, the true Good Samaritan, who has become our neighbor, who pours oil and wine on our wounds and who brings us to the inn, the Church, in which he cares for us, entrusting us to her ministers and paying in person beforehand for our healing,” added Benedict XVI.
The Pope then explained that divorce and abortion are decisions that are “sometimes undertaken in difficult circumstances, they often bring trauma and are causes of deep suffering for those who make them.”
He added: “These wounds also hurt innocent victims: the child who has just been conceived and is not yet born, the children involved in the breaking of family ties.
“The Church, following the example of her divine Master, always deals with concrete persons, above all those who are most weak and innocent, who are victims of injustices and sins, and also those other men and women, who, having done such things, are marked by sin and carry interior wounds, and seek peace and the possibility of recovery.”
Nevertheless, the Pontiff said, the Church also knows that “with the help of grace, human freedom is capable of the definitive and faithful gift of self, that makes the marriage of a man and a woman possible as an indissoluble pact, that even in the most difficult circumstances human freedom is capable of extraordinary acts of sacrifice and solidarity to welcome the life of a new human being.”
Referring to the wound of abortion, the Holy Father addressed an exhortation to women who bear this wound in their soul, taking his inspiration from the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae”: “Do not let yourselves be consumed by discouragement and do not abandon hope. Know how to understand, rather, that which has happened and interpret it in its truth.
“If you have not already done so, open yourselves with humility and confidence to repentance: The Father of all mercy awaits you to offer you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of Reconciliation. You can offer your child to the same Father and his mercy.”
“Only in the attitude of merciful love,” Benedict XVI concluded, “can we draw near and bring succor and allow the victims to stand up and return to the journey of existence.”