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Pope says Church to help children maintain ties with both parents
Pope Benedict XVI said
One of the church's pastoral priorities should be to help children of divorced parents, as much as is possible, to maintain ties with both parents and to be aware of their family origins.

Pope: Take Gospel of mercy to those who've divorced, had abortions
By John Thavis, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Pope Benedict XVI said the church must bring the "Gospel of mercy" to those involved in abortion and divorce, showing sensitivity to the inner burdens they bear.

He made the remarks April 5 in a meeting with participants of an international conference on the aftermath of abortion and divorce.

The pope said both practices had created much suffering in modern society, particularly among innocent victims, leaving wounds that affect people's lives permanently.

He said abortion in particular produces "devastating consequences" for the woman involved, for the family and for society, helping promote a materialistic mentality that shows contempt for life.

"How much selfish complicity often lies at the root of the painful decision that so many women have had to make alone and whose unhealed wound they carry in their souls," he said.

To women who have had an abortion, the pope urged them not to be overwhelmed by discouragement and hopelessness and to open themselves to repentance.

The pope said the church's ethical teachings about abortion and divorce are well known. Although they are of a different nature, both acts are considered grave offences to human dignity and an offence to God, he said.

In addition, he said, both abortion and divorce create innocent victims: "the child recently conceived and still unborn and the children affected by the breakup of family ties."

He said one of the church's pastoral priorities should be to help children of divorced parents, as much as is possible, to maintain ties with both parents and to be aware of their family origins.

At the same time, the pope said, the church recognizes that such decisions are often made in dramatic and difficult circumstances and that they also bring suffering to those who commit them.

"Following the example of the divine teacher, the church always takes an interest in the concrete person," he said.

Many of the men and women involved in abortion and divorce are troubled by guilt and "are looking for peace and the possibility of recovery," and the church must approach them with love and sensitivity, he said.

"Yes, the Gospel of love and life is also always the Gospel of mercy, offered to the real and sinful people that we are, to raise them from any failing and repair any wound," he said.

The pope quoted Pope John Paul II to emphasize that by showing mercy, the church demonstrates its faith in the human being and in human freedom.

Although public opinion is often focused on the church's "no's" in matters of morality, its teachings are really "a great 'yes' to the human person, to his life and his capacity to love," he said.

The pope said the public debate over issues like abortion and divorce is often purely ideological, neglecting the real needs of those directly involved. This is where the church is called upon to offer an attitude of merciful love, he said.

The Rome conference had as its theme: "Oil on the Wounds: A Response to the Aftermath of Divorce and Abortion." It was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.


SPCA Director's note:

About: History of the Institute

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Rev Monsignor Livio Melina, International President of the John Paul II Institute

The interest of Pope John Paul II in the theology and pastoral care of marriages and families goes back at least to his days as a young priest and university chaplain. As an academic he wrote extensively on these matters; as a young bishop he established an institute for the study and pastoral care of families; as pope he has often taught in this area, including his great Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio which followed upon the 1980 Synod of Bishops, devoted to the Family.

Also in response to needs identified by that Synod, John Paul II created the Pontifical Council for the Family and planned the establishment of a new "Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family". He intended to announce this in the course of his Wednesday general audience in St Peter's Square on 13 May 1981. Just before he could do so, however, at 5.19 pm, the Holy Father was shot by Mehemit Ali Agca.

The attempted assassination delayed the promulgation of the Institute, and its Apostolic Constitution, Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum, was not issued until the Feast of the Rosary in the following year. on that occasion the Pope entrusted the Institute to the care of Our Lady of Fatima, to whose intercession he attributed his miraculous survival on the day the Institute was to have been born, the anniversary of her first apparition.

The Pope has empowered the Institute to grant postgraduate degrees and diplomas and direct research in its own right. At the same time, however, the Institute enjoys a special relationship with the Pontifical Lateran University. The President of the Institute, who is directly appointed by the Pope, is currently Bishop Salvatore (Rino) Fisichella, who is also Rector of the Lateran University. The degrees are awarded under the titles of both institutions.

In addition to addressing the theological and pastoral issues of marital and family life, some campuses of the Institute also offer courses of study in bioethics - especially as it relates to respect for the dignity of the human person, for marriage and for the natural family.

By the 1990s, full 'sessions' of the Institute had been established or were evolving in the Lateran University in Vatican City State, in Washington DC (USA), in Valencia (Spain), in Mexico City and Guadalajara (Mexico), in Cotonou (Benin), in Salvador da Bahia (Brazil), and in Changanacherry (India). New campuses are evolving in Ballina (Ireland) and Gaming (Austria). Together these campuses have now offered the Institute's programme to thousands of students from almost every nation.

However, as the Holy Father noted on a number of occasions, the last region of the world without a campus of the Institute was South East Asia and Oceania. In response to his express desire that the Institute be present on all continents and in all parts of the world, various investigations and discussions took place as to the feasibility of an Australian campus.

It is widely recognised that married couples and families in Australia and the neighbouring region labour under enormous and ever-increasing pressures. Individuals and local communities, confident that the Church has a particular wisdom to offer on these matters and relying on the Church's pastoral care, look to her for renewed leadership in this area.

Following feasibility studies and a visit by the then President of the Institute in 1999, Bishop Angelo Scola (now Cardinal Patriarch of Venice), the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference unanimously resolved:

"Conference shares the Holy Father's express desire to see a branch of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family established in Australia to serve the needs of Church and society in our region in this vital area. Conference wishes to convey to the Holy Father, the Chancellor, and the President of the Institute our support for the proposal that the Institute be established in Melbourne in the near future."

As a result the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family opened in July 2001 under the auspices of the Melbourne Archdiocese. The Minister for Education and Training (Victoria) recently accredited the Institute as a higher education provider authorized to conduct its several graduate diploma and degree courses. The Institute works in close collaboration with the worldwide Pontifical Institute and hopes soon to be fully integrated into it as a 'session'. From its inception it has also enjoyed a collaborative arrangement with the University of Notre Dame, Perth.

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