This weekend I am en route to the Philippines to participate in the Asian Conference on the Family (ACF) in Manila. The Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) are sponsoring the event. Though the PCF has organized conferences in other continents, this will be the first pontifical conference in Asia. The theme is “Families of Asia: Lights of Hope.”
Recalling the Charter of Rights of the Family promulgated just over thirty years ago by the Holy See, the Asian Conference on the Family, according to Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes, D.D., Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life for the CBCP, aims to “illustrate Pope Francis’ message to the participants during the Pilgrimage of Families – ‘Family, live the joy of faith!’”
The Pilgrimage of Families, sponsored by the PCF, was celebrated in October of 2013 in the city of Rome and invited families from around the world to give witness to their faith at the Tomb of Saint Peter. The two-day gathering focused on the centrality and irreplaceable role of the family in the transmission of the faith and in building an authentic Culture of Life.
Society is plagued by a host of assaults against the family and the sacredness of human life: contraception, abortion, euthanasia, the rejection of parental rights, support for same-sex unions and the homosexual lifestyle, family violence, debilitating poverty, and the abandonment of our responsibility to care for the aged and disabled. The goal of the Asian Family Conference is to address these threats affecting the family throughout Asia.
The Charter of Rights of the Family emerged in a climate that was already hostile to traditional values and faith, with an ever-growing threat from governments and other institutions set on secularizing society. The Charter set out to define and defend the inalienable rights of the family as an institution created by God, and spoke about society’s moral obligation to cultivate and sustain an environment in which the family could vibrantly live out its mission.
The family and marriage need to be defended and promoted not only by the State but also by the whole of society. Both require the decisive commitment of every person because it is starting from the family and marriage that a complete answer can be given to the challenges of the present and the risks of the future. (n. 9)Not only have the recommendations of the Charter mostly been ignored, the climate and threats confronting the family have become even more aggressive and obtrusive. The traditional model of the family based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between one man and one woman and open to the gift of life is held in contempt by most Western governments; the will and freedom of spouses regarding the number of children is intrusively challenged; and parents are increasingly refused the ability to exercise their fundamental rights regarding the education of their children.
Pope Francis, in his address to the pilgrims during the Pilgrimage of Families last October, spoke of the difficulties the Christian family faces, as well as the many sacrifices made in response to living out the family’s God-given vocation.
With trust in God’s faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear. Christian spouses are not naïve; they know life’s problems and temptations. But they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society. They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world. (n. 2)The sprint is on to redefine marriage so to include same-sex couples; to make abortion on demand completely available; and replace traditional values and faith with secular ideologies. If a healthy society hinges upon the vibrancy and health of the family — as ordained by God — then we must uphold this great gift, defend human life on every level and courageously give public witness to our faith.
Please pray for the success of the Asian Conference on the Family, for all attending to be uplifted and emboldened in the truth, and for families of Asia to be Lights of Hope to the rest of the world.