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ANTONELLI-FAMILIES Sep-18-2008 (500 words) xxxi

Vatican official says Catholic families lead by example

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italian Cardinal Ennio Antonelli said his first priority as president of the Pontifical Council for the Family is to help faithful Catholic couples and their children proclaim by their example the church's teaching on marriage and family life.

"The first priority is to build up Christian families," said the cardinal, who was named president of the council in June.

Cardinal Antonelli said he does not think the church and its leaders speak only about problems and attacks on the family, but the media seems to pay attention only when the church expresses its concerns.

"We must care for normal families first so that they become a sign for others," he said. "Without examples, how can we persuade others?"

The cardinal met Sept. 18 with reporters, partly to introduce himself as the new council president and partly to present plans for the Jan. 14-18 theological and pastoral congress on family life and the World Meeting of Families in Mexico City.

While the council expects about 15,000 people from all over the world to participate in the Jan. 14-16 congress and anywhere from 600,000 to 1 million to join in the Jan. 17-18 celebration and Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cardinal Antonelli said Pope Benedict XVI would not travel to Mexico City for the event.

"The pope is healthy," he said, "but he is not a young man and he was advised by his physicians not to travel to Mexico City because of the altitude," which is about 7,470 feet above sea level.

Cardinal Antonelli said he hoped to increase the council's contacts with bishops' conferences around the world, with families, experts and Catholic associations, but giving priority "to ordinary parish pastoral outreach to families."

While strengthening programs for all families, the church wants people who have remarried civilly without an annulment to know that it "welcomes them in every way possible and is close to them, supporting them in their difficulties," the cardinal said.

But the church also must recognize that the situation in which they are living "is not in full harmony" with Jesus' own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, which is why they cannot receive Communion, he said.

"Objectively, this is the situation: Divorced and remarried people are not in harmony with the teaching of the Gospel; they are not in full communion with the church. Even if the people involved are good people, it is important not to falsify the significance of the Eucharist," he said.

"The church must be open," Cardinal Antonelli said. "Jesus went out to all," but the church also must make clear "the difference between marriage and other forms of cohabitation."

The cardinal said that in church teaching, preaching and public statements about family life, "the accent must be on the beauty of the Gospel lived in the family. That is clear. Beauty persuades by itself. But that can happen only when there are strong families."


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