Interreligious Affirm Marriage at Historical Humanum Conference

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
20 Nov 2014

Pope Francis addressing the Conference at the Vatican

Hindu, Catholic and Pentecostal speakers transcended religious divides to affirm the urgency of strengthening marriage, at the final session of the global Conference on the complementarity of man and woman.

The Vatican conference, which welcomed around 30 speakers and more than 300 participants from 23 different countries,  affirmed the traditional Christian teaching on marriage and provide support for those who may be struggling within marriage.

At the Synod on the Family last month, there were reports that the Catholic Church appeared to be relaxing its approach to homosexuality and divorce. However this conference heard Pope Francis in his opening address stress the importance that "children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother".

"It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is a root of marriage and family," he told those gathered.

"For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others' gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity."

The Pope insisted that to view complementarity as meaning "the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern" is too simplistic, and instead said that it "will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage".

Marriage, he continued, is in "crisis" in our society. "We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment," Francis said.

"Evidence is mounting that the decline in marriage is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis...It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology."

Affirming the family as "the foundation of co-existence and remedy against social fragmentation," the Pope urged those gathered to uphold "yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart".

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at the Humanum Conference

"Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is 'indispensable'; that it 'transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple,'" he said.

"I pray that your colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies."

British Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks also addressed the conference in which he blamed the breakdown of the traditional family for society's ills.

He said :"Our compassion for those who choose to live differently should not inhibit us from being advocates for the single most humanising institution in history. The family, man, woman, and child, is not one lifestyle choice among many. It is the best means we have yet discovered for nurturing future generations and enabling children to grow in a matrix of stability and love."