Vatican City, 3 June 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday evening, almost half a million people attended the "Celebration of Witnesses" at Bresso Park in Milan, Italy, one of events of the seventh World Meeting of Families. The Holy Father arrived at 8.30 p.m. to participate in the celebration during which he answered questions put to him by various families on subjects which included the economic crisis, the position of divorced people in the Church and the indissolubility of Marriage. Benedict XVI also recalled his own infancy and family life.
An engaged couple from Madagascar who are studying at university in Italy spoke of the anxiety they felt when faced with the "forever" of Marriage. The Pope explained that falling in love, being an emotion, is not eternal. "The emotion of love must be purified", he said, "it must undertake a journey of discernment in which the mind and the will also come into play. ... In the rite of Marriage the Church does not ask whether you are in love but whether you want, whether you are resolved. In other words, falling in love must become true love; it must involve the will and the mind in a journey (which is the period of engagement) of purification, of greater profundity so that it is truly all of man, with all his capacities, with the discernment of reason and the force of will, who says: 'Yes, this is my life'". The Holy Father also mentioned other important factors such as communion of life with others, with friends, the Church, the faith and God Himself.
A Brazilian family raised the issue of divorced couples who have remarried and cannot avail themselves of the Sacraments. Benedict XVI affirmed that "this is one of the the great causes of suffering for the Church today, and we do not have simple solutions. ... Naturally, one very important factor is prevention. This means ensuring that, from the beginning, the act of falling love is transformed in a more profound and mature decision. Another factor is that of accompanying people during marriage, to ensure that families are never alone but find authentic company on their journey. We must tell people in this situation that the Church loves them, but they must see and feel this love". Parishes and other Catholic communities "must do everything possible so that such people feel loved and accepted, that they are not 'outsiders' even if they cannot receive absolution and the Eucharist. They must see that they too live fully within the Church. ... The Eucharist is real and shared if people truly enter into communion with the Body of Christ. Even without the 'corporeal' assumption of the Sacrament, we can be spiritually united to Christ". It is important for divorced couples "to have the chance to live a life of faith, ... to see that their suffering is a gift for the Church, because they also help others to defend the stability of love, of Marriage; ... theirs is a suffering in the community of the Church for the great values of our faith".
A Greek family asked the Pope what families affected by the economic crisis can do not to lose hope. "Words are insufficient", the Holy Father replied. "We should do something tangible and we all suffer because we are unable to do so. First let us speak of politics. I believe that all parties should show an increased sense of responsibility, that they should not make promises they cannot keep, that they should not seek votes only for themselves but show responsibility for the common good of everyone, in the awareness that politics is also a human and moral responsibility before God and man". Moreover, each of must do everything we can "with a great sense of responsibility and in the knowledge that sacrifices are necessary if we are to prevail". The Holy Father also suggested that families help one another, and that parishes and cities do likewise, supporting one another with material assistance and never forgetting to pray.
A seven year old girl from Vietnam asked the Pope to say something about his own family and infancy. Benedict XVI recalled the essential importance Sunday had had for his family. "Sunday began on Saturday afternoon when my father would tell us the Sunday readings. ... Thus we entered into the liturgy in an atmosphere of joy. The next day we would go to Mass. I lived near Salzburg so there was always music - Mozart, Schubert, Haydn - and when the 'Kyrie' began it was as if the sky itself had opened. ... We were of one heart and soul, with many shared experiences even through difficult times because there was the war and before that the dictatorship, then poverty. But the reciprocal love that existed between us, the joy in simple things was so strong that we could bear and overcome these things. ...Thus we grew up in the certainty that it is good to be human, because we could see the goodness of God reflected in parents and siblings. ... In this context of trust, joy and love we were happy and I think that heaven must be similar to my youth. In this sense I hope 'to go home' when I go 'to the other part of the world'".