Before an estimated one-million pilgrims at an open-air Mass which took place yesterday at the close of the World Meeting of Families in Milan, Italy, Pope Benedict XVI spoke out on family values, reached out to divorcees, and called the Sabbath “an oasis in which to pause . . . and celebrate the family.”
According to the AFP, the pope addressed pilgrims from 154 countries at the Mass, which marked the close of his three-day visit to the conference, and encouraged them to uphold the traditional values of marriage and family.
“We have been given the task of building church communities that are more and more like families… based on a marriage between man and woman,” he said. “Watch over your children and, in a world dominated by technology, transmit to them, with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them towards high goals and supporting them in their fragility.”
He also addressed divorcees who remarry outside the Church, saying that even though they cannot receive the sacraments, more should be done to make them feel welcome.
Calling them “the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation, the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. . .”
He said that their pain “is the whole community’s pain” and encouraged them “to remain united to your communities” while expressing the hope that “your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you.”
The pontiff also encouraged families to keep holy the Sabbath.
“Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s day,” he said, and called the tradition of Sunday rest “an oasis in which to pause… and celebrate the family.”
He went on to lament the modern-day “utilitarian concept of work, production and the market,” which “brings in its wake ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment, the race for consumer goods, family tensions.”
Economic crisis and social unease is all the more reason why families should celebrate Sunday as “the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play, sport,” he said.
During a meeting with families on Saturday evening, the Press Association reports that the Pope recalled the Sundays of his own childhood in Germany in a house filled with music, big lunches and shared liturgical readings to strengthen the family faith.
“To tell the truth,” the Pope said, “if I try to imagine a little how it will be in heaven, it seems to be the time of my youth, of my childhood.”
He went on to recall lots of singing in his childhood home in Bavaria, which is not far from Salzburg, and of long walks in the woods.
“In a word, we were one heart and one soul, with many shared experiences, even if the times were difficult,” the pontiff said.
Milan marks the 7th World Meeting of Families, an event founded by Pope John Paul II in 2994 to promote the Christian family. The pontiff announced on Sunday that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in the U.S. in 2015 in the city of Philadelphia.
Click here to listen to the Pope addressing questions from families at the conference.
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