Vatican City, 6 June 2012 (VIS) – Benedict XVI focused his catechesis during this morning’s general audience on his recent trip to Milan, his first pastoral trip as Peter’s Successor to that Italian archdiocese where he had participated in the seventh World Meeting of Families.
The Holy Father recalled the first stage of his journey, which had taken him to Piazza del Duomo, heart and symbol of Milan, where he had exhorted the hundreds of thousands gathered to greet him “to live the faith as part of their individual and community experience, their private and public life, so as to create a stable and authentic ‘well being’ on the basis of the family, which must be rediscovered as mankind’s most important heritage”.
That evening the Holy Father had attended a concert at the La Scala opera house, in which “the notes of Beethoven’s ninth symphony expressed that aspiration to universality and fraternity which the Church tirelessly seeks by announcing the Gospel; a fraternity which bursts forth in the famous ‘Hymn to Joy'”. At the end of the concert, he said, “I spoke of the contrast between this ideal and the dramatic events of history, and of the need for a God Who is near, Who shares our sufferings, as my thoughts went to so many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of the earthquake”. Benedict XVI also recalled how he had spoken of the family in the third millennium. “It is in families that we first experience how human beings are not created to live closed in themselves, but in relation with others. It is in the family that the light of peace begins to burn in people’s hearts, so as to illuminate our world”.
On Saturday, addressing priests, religious, seminarians and Church leaders in the cathedral of Milan, the Pope had reaffirmed “the importance of celibacy and consecrated virginity, which was to dear to the great St. Ambrose. … These are a luminous sign of love for God and for our brothers and sisters, founded on an increasingly intimate relationship with Christ in prayer and expressed in the total gift of self”.
Benedict XVI then went on to recall how, in the stadium of San Siro, he had invited young people who had recently received or were about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation “to say their free and responsible ‘yes’ to the Gospel of Jesus, and to welcome the gifts of the Holy Spirit which mould them as Christians and enable them to live the Gospel and to be active members of the community”.
During his meeting with representatives of government, industry and the world of culture, the Pope had emphasised the fact that “the legislation and activities of State institutions must always be at the service of individuals, safeguarding them in all aspects, beginning with the right to life which must never be deliberately suppressed, and reconsigning the specific identity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman”.
At the “Celebration of Witnesses” in Milan’s Bresso Park the Holy Father had responded to questions put to him by a number of families. “I wanted to provide a sign of the open dialogue that exists between families and the Church, between the world and the Church”, he said to the faithful at his general audience. “I was greatly struck by the moving testimonies of couples and children from different continents on the important issues of our day: the economic crisis, the difficulty in reconciling work and family, the spread of separation and divorce, and existential questions which touch adults, young people and children alike. I wish to recall what I have often said in the past in defence of family time, which is threatened by the imposition of work-related commitments. Sunday is the day of the Lord, the day of man, a day in which everyone must be free, free for the family and free for God. By defending Sunday we defend man’s freedom”.
At Mass on Sunday 3 June for the close of the seventh World Meeting of Families, also celebrated in Bresso Park which “was transformed into a kind of open-air cathedral”, Benedict XVI had launched a “call to build ecclesial communities increasingly similar to families, capable of reflecting the beauty of the Blessed Trinity and of evangelising not just with the word but by irradiation, with the power of a love that is lived, because love is the only power that can transform the world”.
More than one million people had attended the gathering in Milan meeting which was, the Holy Father concluded, “an ‘epiphany’ of the family. Families were present in their many different forms, but also in that unicity which is their fundamental identity: a communion of love founded upon marriage and called to be a shrine of life, a small Church, a cell of society. A message of hope went out from Milan to the whole world, a message backed up by real experience that it is possible and joyful, though demanding, to experience a faithful love ‘forever’, open to life; it is possible to participate as families in the mission of the Church and in the construction of society. … May the experience of Milan bring abundant fruits to the Church and favour increased attention to the cause of the family, which is the cause of man and of civilisation”.