Here is a translation of the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin’s keynote address, given Friday, November 29, at the John Paul II Theological Institute, on the occasion of the opening of the Academic Year 2019-2020, focused on the topic: “The Family: School of Freedom and Peace.”
* * *
The Cardinal Secretary of State’s Keynote Address
Excellency Grand Chancellor,
Most Reverend Monsignor President,
Gentlemen and Ladies,
I’m happy to take part in the opening of the Academic Year 2019-2020 of the John Paul II Theological Institute and I’m heartily grateful for the kind invitation. This is a particularly favourable occasion to pause and point out the special importance, which the family institution assumes today, in view of the building of the ecclesial community and the re-composition of the civil society itself.
The historic Institute of Studies on Marriage and the Family took shape by the will of Saint Pope John Paul II, as Pope Francis recalled in his address to the academic community on October 27, 2016. “The farsighted intuition of Saint John Paul II, who intensely desired this academic institution, today can be even better recognized and appreciated in its fruitfulness and timeliness. His wise discernment of the signs of the times restored vigorously to the attention of the Church and of human society itself, the profundity and delicacy of the bonds that are generated from the conjugal alliance of man and woman.” From the same Pope, from his thought and his ministry, it received the direction and orientation of its special mission, corresponding to the commitment that the Church is called to dedicate to the illumination of the splendour of Christian life, inscribed in the history of the human love of man and of woman.
The constitution of the new Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family, decided by the Holy Father Francis, re-launches the timeliness of that inspiration and invites to elaborate and update its identity to correspond to the new exigencies of the theological culture and of the ecclesial mission. Therefore, the sign shouldn’t be underestimated, which this re-foundation bears in itself. Through the authoritative Petrine ministry, the Church highlights, with even greater force, the need to constitute an academic center of studies and specialized formation on marriage and the family as a network node of the constellation of cultural institutions that represent the Holy See’s pastoral service for the universal Church, in its loftiest and amplest sense.
The subject remains that of the original inspiration. It is in fact about the mystery and the ministry of the family, which sinks its roots in God’s creative act, in which the difference of man and woman is geared to the special mission of an alliance to which is entrusted the work of love that shapes the world and history.
Grafted on this root is the mystery and ecclesial ministry of the family, called by the Gospel to transcend the creaturely dimension itself and directed to make itself sign and reality — sacrament, in fact — of the action of salvation and of the promise of fulfilment that is rooted in the mystery of the Son of God made man.
The centrality of this enhancement of the mystery and of the ministry of the family, indissolubly human and Christian, is the object of attention and of reflection now well present to the ecclesial sensibility, on the pastoral plane as well as in the theological realm. The special commitment that was dedicated to you by the double world Synod of Bishops, re-launched by the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, appears decisively inserted in the ecclesial conscience. There is no doubt, moreover, that this commitment also highlighted the work — extraordinarily and in certain aspects also unheard of — which must be invested in the clarification and enrichment of pastoral practice and of the believing intelligence itself. It is, in fact, about questioning the Word of God and the tradition of the faith in the perspective of a problematic constellation of unusual radicalism that questions evidences that, only yesterday, could still appear obvious and not in need of particular cultural elaboration. In fact, today’s Christianity is solicited to rediscover also — as in fact happens — neglected riches of the treasure that Jesus’ Gospel has placed in the heart of history, so that the Spirit would illuminate them and render them comprehensible at the opportune time. “But when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. […] “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 15:26-27; 16:12-14).
The present moment of the Church is always the place of “future things” of which the Lord’s promise speaks to his Apostles. In fact, we are not always on the place in which the Lord waits for us to do our part of diligent scribes in the Kingdom of God, which draws from his treasure old things and new things that always joyfully confirm his inviolable promises and his unexpected illuminations. He expects from us a spirit of joyous communion in the attentive discernment of his confirmation and his illuminations. The Lord’s truth brings freedom and peace, not contention.
In this key, I now wish to point out a starting point of further reflection on the subject of ecclesial communion — but also civil — of which the family, in the first place the Christian <family>, is not only witness, but so to speak maieutic mediator, a true and proper midwife. In a significant passage of Amoris Laetitia, we read: “The relationship between brothers is deepened with the passing of time and the bond of fraternity that is formed in the family among the children, happiness in an atmosphere of education to openness to others, is the great school of freedom and peace. In the family, among brothers, one learns human coexistence [. . .] Perhaps we aren’t always conscious of it, but it is in fact the family that introduces fraternity in the world! From this first experience of fraternity, nourished by affections and family education, the style of fraternity radiates as a promise on the entire society” (n. 194). In a certain sense, all are aware of this indispensable mediation of the family. In today’s situation of the social bond, however, this awareness seems rather weak, remote, almost evanescent. The family feels more threatened in its vulnerability, than called to enhance its strength, in order of the quality of the social bond.
It cannot be denied, in fact, that the family is hounded today by a pressure to conform and, respectively, by a culture of disintegration, which weakens intensely the community matrix and the educational mediation towards a shared humanity and its founding values. On one hand, the exasperation of the individualistic anthropological model takes away joy and strength from the order of family affections, which must ensure the apprenticeship of the value of human and personal relationships. On the other <hand>, the abstract formalism of functional bonds and the financial hegemony of economic relationships, contribute to the spread of a substantial insensibility for the affective and communal matrix that the conjugal root and family initiation introduce in the experience of the fundamental values of the human. The economic and technocratic development of the civil society and the human and communal sentiment of peoples are on a collision course, and in search of a way out.
The dissatisfaction that is fueling peoples’ hardship, often unable to find words to say to one another and to understand each other, also in countries of a long democratic tradition, is largely revealer of the marginalization of the family constellation and of the unbridgeable social void that it introduces in any system of civil coexistence. Many clues, so it seems, show that the conflict of man and woman that, instead of the re-launching of the alliance, seeks solutions in the substitution of the sexual difference with gender indifference, manifests a significant increase in the recourse to violence. The evidence that flows form it, in all likelihood, can be formulated in a simple and direct way. The dedication for the alliance of man and of woman, which allows itself to be shaped in the form of the family community, is a school of freedom and peace. It constitutes, precisely in this way, the irreplaceable matrix of the human composition of affections and of responsible freedom, of the community and of peaceful coexistence. I must certainly not explain here, in detail, the contents and the reasons for this fundamental anthropological vision of the family reality. The persuasive and rigorous elaboration of this anthropological structure is, today, the true subject of the relationship between the conjugal-family alliance of man and woman. The crisis of substantial democracy and of the family matrix are held tightly and are resolved jointly. Pope Francis himself put it opportunely in evidence in his Message for the 2017 Day of Peace, shortly after the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia: “If the origin of which violence flows is men’s heart, then it’s fundamental to follow the path of non-violence in the first place within the family. It is a component of that joy of love that I presented last March in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, at the conclusion of two years of reflection, on the part of the Church, on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible through which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters learn to communicate and to take care of one another and even the conflicts must be overcome, not with force but with dialogue, respect, the search for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within the family the joy of love is propagated in the world and radiates in the whole society. However, an ethic of fraternity and of peaceful coexistence between persons and between peoples can’t be based on the logic of fear, of violence or of closure, but on responsibility, on respect and on sincere dialogue.”
Not by accident, among others, this passage concludes mentioning — among the urgencies that impose a decisive contrast to the more showy phenomena of degradation of freedom and of peace between peoples and in peoples, — the disarmament of nuclear deterrence and domestic violence on women and children.
The dedication requested to build and guard the family community, naturally, is not realized only in the light of its aesthetic, but also through the shadows of its tragedy. Christian faith must first be profoundly aware of it. In the present juncture, it is particularly called to the loyal clarification of this dialectic and to the generous overcoming of its demoralizing and debilitating effects. Not by the presumption of a magic immunization from its risks, but by the merciful grace of its rescue: freely given by faith, generously offered in faith. The Christian family is the normal maieutic mediator of this testimonial and loving mission of the power of grace that rescues the alliance of man and woman and agrees to carry the weight of one another. This subsidiarity becomes crucial today for the restitution of full transparency and truth to the mandate of reconciliation with God: and of the fraternal communion that must represent to it the non-ephemeral evidence in the realm of the civil community itself. May the fidelity to the mission received with the following of the Lord, and the generous disposition to obedience of the Spirit, which opens the way to it, be able to generate fruits of wisdom and love also through the mandate that is entrusted to this Institute, on which the Church counts for the diffusion of the joy of the Gospel among peoples.
Thank you for listening.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]