Last Friday morning in the Vatican, Pope Benedict received Gianni Alemanno, mayor of the City of Rome and other regional authorities, calling on legislators to help young people start new families.
Describing the family as the "the primary cell of society, ... founded on marriage between a man and a woman", the Pope noted how "it is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that we learn solidarity between generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and acceptance of others". In this context he also noted how "the family must, then, be supported by policies ... which aim at its consolidation and development, accompanied by appropriate educational efforts".
"The approval of forms of union which pervert the essence and goal of the family ends up penalising those people who, not without effort, seek to maintain stable emotional ties which are juridically guaranteed and publicly recognised. In this context, the Church looks with favour upon all initiatives which seek to educate young people to experience love as a giving of self, with an exalted and oblational view of sexuality. To this end the various components of society must agree on the objectives of education, in order for human love not to be reduced to an article of consumption, but to be seen and lived as a fundamental experience which gives existence meaning and a goal".
Noting then that many couples desire to have children "but are forced to wait", the Holy Father emphasised the importance "of giving concrete support to maternity, and of guaranteeing working women the chance to conciliate the demands of family and work".
"Since 'openness to life is at the centre of true development' the large number of abortions that take place in our region cannot leave us indifferent", the Pope warned. "The Christian community, through its many care homes, pro-life centres and similar initiatives, is committed to accompanying and supporting women who encounter difficulties in welcoming a new life. Public institutions must also offer their support so that family consultancies are in a position to help women overcome the causes that may lead them to interrupt their pregnancy".
Pope Benedict XVI then went on to explain how "the ageing population raises new problems. ... Although many old people can reply on the support and care of their own families, growing numbers are alone and have need of medical and healthcare assistance". In this context he also expressed his joy at the collaboration that exists "with the great Catholic healthcare institutions such as, for example, in the field of paediatrics, the 'Bambino Gesu' hospital. I hope these structures may continue to collaborate with local organisations in order to guarantee their services to everyone who needs them, at the same time renewing my call to promote a culture of respect for life until its natural end".
On the subject of the economic crisis, the Pope highlighted how "parishes in the diocese of Rome are, through Caritas, making prodigious efforts" to help suffering families. "I trust that adequate measures in support of low-income families may be adopted, especially for large families with are too often penalised", he said
The Holy Father noted how unemployment affects above all young people who, following years of education and training, cannot find professional openings. "They often feel disillusioned and are tempted to reject society itself. The persistence of such situations causes social tensions which are exploited by criminal organisations to further their illegal activities. For this reason", he concluded, "it is vital, even in this difficult time, to make every effort to promote policies that favour employment and dignified assistance, which is indispensable in order to give life to new families".