Pope: Cohabitation No Replacement for Marriage

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

At an open-air Mass attended by up to 400,000 pilgrims yesterday in Zegreb, Croatia, Pope Benedict XVI called upon the predominantly Catholic nation to counter the disintegration of family values and not to give in to the “secularized mentality” that living together is an acceptable replacement to marriage.

“Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe,” the Pope said during the Mass, which was held on the second day of his historic two-trip to the Balkan nation.

“In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever,” he said. “Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality!”

He went on to condemn the adoption of practices such as abortion, cohabitation as a “substitute for marriage” and artificial birth control, and urged Catholic families not to give in to a creeping “secularized mentality.”

“Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person!” he encouraged. 

“The good of the family is also the good of the Church,” he went on to say, and called for “legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them.”

The sermon was particularly appropriate as the Mass was celebrated on the same day that Croatia traditionally recognizes as “Family Day.”

It also gave the Holy Father another opportunity to speak out about the growing anti-Catholicism and “Christianophobia” that has been spreading through Europe in recent years. This disturbing trend has resulted in pitting the Church against some national governments and European institutions over issues such as gay marriage, abortion, religious education and the use of Christian religious symbols in public places.

Benedict also expressed support for Croatia’s current bid to join the European Union. Even though he said he understands the country’s fear of losing its identity by joining the Union, he said Europe needed to remember its Christian roots.

“From its beginning, your nation has belonged to Europe,” he said.

On Saturday evening, he conducted a prayer vigil for youth which was attended by more than 25,000 youngsters who gathered in the capital’s main square. They chanted “Pope we love you!” and waved yellow and white scarves as the pope arrived in his popemobile.

In his address, he called upon the youngsters not to be led astray by “lifestyles which regard appearances as more important than inner depth.” Do not “yield to the temptation of putting all your trust in possessions … while abandoning the search for the truth,” he said.

The visit to Croatia is Benedict’s 19th foreign trip since becoming pope in 2005.

The full text of the Pope’s homily can be found here.

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