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Papa Benedetto's homily at Holy Mass for the VII World Meeting of Families
Pastoral Pilgrimage to the Archdiocese of Milan
Bresso Park, Sunday 3 June 2012 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish & Spanish

"Dear Brother Bishops, Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a time of great joy and communion that we are experiencing this morning, as we celebrate the eucharistic Sacrifice: a great gathering, in union with the Successor of Peter, consisting of faithful who have come from many different nations. It is an eloquent image of the Church, one and universal, founded by Christ and fruit of the mission entrusted by Jesus to his Apostles, as we heard in today’s Gospel: to go and make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:18-19). With affection and gratitude I greet Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the principal architects of this VII World Meeting of Families, together with their staff, the Auxiliary Bishops of Milan and all the other bishops. I am pleased to greet all the Authorities who are present today. And I extend a warm welcome especially to you, dear families! Thank you for your participation!

In today’s second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that in Baptism we received the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Christ as brothers and sisters and makes us children of the Father, so that we can cry out: “Abba, Father!” (cf. Rom 8:15,17). At that moment we were given a spark of new, divine life, which is destined to grow until it comes to its definitive fulfilment in the glory of heaven; we became members of the Church, God’s family, “sacrarium Trinitatis” as Saint Ambrose calls it, “a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, as the Second Vatican Council teaches (Lumen Gentium, 4). The liturgical Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that we are celebrating today invites us to contemplate this mystery, but it also urges us to commit ourselves to live our communion with God and with one another according to the model of Trinitarian communion. We are called to receive and to pass on the truths of faith in a spirit of harmony, to live our love for each other and for everyone, sharing joys and sufferings, learning to seek and to grant forgiveness, valuing the different charisms under the leadership of the bishops. In a word, we have been given the task of building church communities that are more and more like families, able to reflect the beauty of the Trinity and to evangelize not only by word, but I would say by “radiation”, in the strength of living love.

It is not only the Church that is called to be the image of One God in Three Persons, but also the family, based on marriage between man and woman. In the beginning, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen 1:27-28). God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, image of God. Dear married couples, in living out your marriage you are not giving each other any particular thing or activity, but your whole lives. And your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another’s good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving. It is also fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education. And lastly, it is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation. Dear married couples, 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. And let me add a word to the children here: be sure that you always maintain a relationship of deep affection and attentive care for your parents, and see that your relationships with your brothers and sisters are opportunities to grow in love.

God’s project for the human couple finds its fullness in Jesus Christ, who raised marriage to the level of a sacrament. Dear married couples, by means of a special gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ gives you a share in his spousal love, making you a sign of his faithful and all-embracing love for the Church. If you can receive this gift, renewing your “yes” each day by faith, with the strength that comes from the grace of the sacrament, then your family will grow in God’s love according to the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Dear families, pray often for the help of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, that they may teach you to receive God’s love as they did. Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world. You have before you the witness of so many families who point out the paths for growing in love: by maintaining a constant relationship with God and participating in the life of the Church, by cultivating dialogue, respecting the other’s point of view, by being ready for service and patient with the failings of others, by being able to forgive and to seek forgiveness, by overcoming with intelligence and humility any conflicts that may arise, by agreeing on principles of upbringing, and by being open to other families, attentive towards the poor, and responsible within civil society. These are all elements that build up the family. Live them with courage, and be sure that, insofar as you live your love for each other and for all with the help of God’s grace, you become a living Gospel, a true domestic Church (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 49). I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you.

In the Book of Genesis, God entrusts his creation to the human couple for them to guard it, cultivate it, and direct it according to his plan (cf. 1:27-28; 2:15). In this indication of Sacred Scripture we may recognize the task of man and woman to collaborate with God in the process of transforming the world through work, science and technology. Man and woman are also the image of God in this important work, which they are to carry out with the Creator’s own love. In modern economic theories, there is often a utilitarian concept of work, production and the market. Yet God’s plan, as well as experience, show that the one-sided logic of sheer utility and maximum profit are not conducive to harmonious development, to the good of the family or to building a just society, because it brings in its wake ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment, the race for consumer goods, family tensions. Indeed, the utilitarian mentality tends to take its toll on personal and family relationships, reducing them to a fragile convergence of individual interests and undermining the solidity of the social fabric.

One final point: man, as the image of God, is also called to rest and to celebrate. The account of creation concludes with these words: “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Gen 2:2-3). For us Christians, the feast day is Sunday, the Lord’s day, the weekly Easter. It is the day of the Church, the assembly convened by the Lord around the table of the word and of the eucharistic Sacrifice, just as we are doing today, in order to feed on him, to enter into his love and to live by his love. It is the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play, sport. It is the day of the family, on which to experience together a sense of celebration, encounter, sharing, not least through taking part in Mass. Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s Day! It is like an oasis in which to pause, so as to taste the joy of encounter and to quench our thirst for God.

Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance. Harmonizing work schedules with family demands, professional life with fatherhood and motherhood, work with celebration, is important for building up a society with a human face. In this regard, always give priority to the logic of being over that of having: the first builds up, the second ends up destroying. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to him, the kind that therefore “makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)” (Deus Caritas Est, 18). Amen."

Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI on VII World Meeting of Families
General Audience, Wednesday 6 June 2012, St Peter's Square - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“The Family: Work and Celebration” was the theme of the Seventh World Meeting of Families which has taken place in Milan in the past few days. I still have in my eyes and in my heart the images and emotions of this unforgettable and marvellous event that transformed Milan into a city of families: families from all over the world, united by the joy of believing in Jesus Christ. I am profoundly grateful to God who has granted me to live this event “with” families and “for” the family. In all those who listened to me during these days I met with a sincere readiness to accept and to witness to the “Gospel of the family”. Yes, for without the family humanity has no future; young people in particular need to learn the values that give meaning to life, they need to be born into and grow up in that community of life and love which God himself desired for men and women.

The meeting with the many families from the different continents has given me the happy opportunity to visit the Archdiocese of Milan for the first time as Successor of Peter. Cardinal Angelo Scola, the priests and all the faithful, as well as the Mayor and the other authorities, welcomed me with great warmth — for which I am deeply grateful. I was thus able to experience from close at hand the faith of the people of Milan, rich in history, culture, humanity and active charity. The first event of this busy three-day Pastoral Visit took place in the square outside the cathedral, the symbol and heart of the city. I cannot forget the warm embrace of the crowd of Milanese people and participants in the Seventh World Meeting of Families that accompanied me throughout my Visit, overflowing the streets. An expanse of celebrating families that with sentiments of deep participation joined in particular with the affectionate thoughts and solidarity that I wanted to address straight away to all those in need of help and comfort, those who are troubled by various anxieties and, especially, the families worst hit by the economic crisis, as well as the beloved peoples struck by the earthquake. At this first meeting with the City, I first wanted to speak to the hearts of the faithful of the Ambrosian City. I urged them to live out their faith in their experience as individuals and as a community, in private and in public, so as to foster an authentic “well-being”, starting with the family which must be rediscovered as humanity’s principal patrimony. From the top of the Cathedral, the statue of Our Lady, with her arms wide open, seemed to welcome with motherly tenderness all the families of Milan and of the whole world!

Then Milan reserved a unique and noble greeting for me in one of the most evocative and meaningful places in the city, La Scala, where important pages of the country’s history have been written, under the impulse of great spiritual values and ideals. In this temple of music, the notes of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony gave a voice to that example of universality and brotherhood which the Church reproposes tirelessly by proclaiming the Gospel. And at the end of the concert — which I dedicated to our many brothers and sisters who have been sorely tried by the earthquake — I referred specifically to the contrast between this ideal and the dramas of history, and to the need for a God who is close and who shares in our suffering. I emphasized that in Jesus of Nazareth God makes himself close and shoulders our suffering with us. At the end of that intense musical and spiritual moment I mentioned the family of the third millennium, recalling that it is in the family that we first feel that the human person is not created to live withdrawn into him- or herself but rather in relationships with others; and it is in the family that the light of peace is first kindled in hearts so that it may illuminate our world.

The next day, in the Cathedral thronged with priests and men and women religious and in the presence of numerous Cardinals and Bishops from various countries of the world, I celebrated Terce according to the Ambrosian Liturgy. On that occasion I wished to reaffirm the value of celibacy and consecrated virginity, so dear to the great St Ambrose. Celibacy and virginity in the Church are a luminous sign of love for God and for the brethren, which stems from an ever closer relationship with Christ in prayer and is expressed in the total gift of oneself.

Then the event in the Meazza Stadium was an encounter charged with enthusiasm. Here I experienced the embrace of a joyful multitude of young men and women who have received this year or who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. The careful preparation of the event, with meaningful texts and prayers, as well as choreography, made the meeting even more stimulating. To the youth of Milan I addressed the appeal to say a free and conscious “yes” to the Gospel of Jesus, accepting the gifts of the Holy Spirit which make it possible to be formed as Christians, to live the Gospel and to be active members of the community. I encouraged them to be dedicated to their studies in particular and to generous service of their neighbour.

The meeting with the representatives of institutional authorities, of business people and of workers, of the worlds of culture and of education of the Milanese and Lombard society enabled me to highlight how important it is that legislation and the work of the State institutions be at the service and for the safeguard of the person in his many aspects, starting with the right to life — whose deliberate suppression can never be legitimate — and with recognition of the identity proper to the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman.

After this appointment dedicated to the situation of the diocese and the city, I went to the vast Parco Nord in the territory of Bresso. Here I took part in the involving Feast of Testimonies entitled “One world, family, love”. Here I had the joy of meeting thousands of people, a rainbow of families from Italy and from across the world, who had already gathered in the early hours of the afternoon in a genuinely family atmosphere of festivity and warmth. Answering the questions of several families resulting from their life and experience, I wanted to give them a sign of the open dialogue that exists between families and the Church, between the world and the Church. I was deeply impressed by the moving testimonies of married couples and children from different continents on highly topical themes of our times: the economic crisis, the difficulty in reconciling work time with time for the family, the spread of separations and divorces, and also existential questions that affect adults, young people and children. I would like here to recall what I said in defence of time for the family, threatened by a sort of “dictatorship” of work commitments: Sunday is the day of the Lord and of men and women, a day in which everyone must be able to be free, free for the family and free for God. In defending Sunday we defend human freedom!

The Holy Mass on Sunday, 3 June, for the conclusion of the Seventh World Meeting of Families was an immense and prayerful crowd that completely filled the area of Bresso Airport which seemed transformed into an open air cathedral, partly because of the reproductions of the magnificent polychrome stained-glass windows of the Cathedral that stood out on the dais. To that multitude of the faithful from different nations, deeply immersed in the beautifully prepared liturgy, I launched an appeal to build ecclesial communities that would be increasingly families and would be able to reflect the beauty of the Blessed Trinity and to evangelize not only with words but by outreach, with the power of love lived, because love is the only power that can transform the world. I also stressed the importance of the “triad” of family, work and celebration. These are three gifts of God, three dimensions of our life that must find a harmonious balance in order to build societies with a human face.

I feel deeply grateful for these magnificent days in Milan. I thank Cardinal Ennio Antonelli and the Pontifical Council for the Family, all the Authorities, for their presence and collaboration in these event; my thanks also goes to the Prime Minister of the Italian Republic for having taken part in Holy Mass on Sunday. And I renew my cordial “thank you” to the various institutions which generously cooperated with the Holy See and with the Archdiocese of Milan in the organization of the Meeting; which had tremendous pastoral and ecclesial success, and vast echoes throughout the world. In fact it brought to Milan more than a million people, who peacefully invaded the streets for several days, witnessing to the beauty of the family, hope for humanity.

The World Meeting in Milan thus resulted from this most eloquent “epiphany” of the family, which was demonstrated in the variety of its expressions, but also in the oneness of its essential identity: that of a communion of love, founded on marriage and called to be the sanctuary of life, a miniature Church, the cell of society. From Milan a message of hope was launched to the entire world. It was substantiated by the living experiences: it is possible and joyous, although demanding, to live faithful love open to life “forever”; it is possible to participate as families in the mission of the Church and in the construction of society. With the help of God and the special protection of Mary Most Holy, Queen of the Family, may the Milan experience bring abundant fruit to the Church’s journey; and may it be a harbinger of increased attention to the cause of the family, which coincides with that of man and of civilization. Many thanks."