Marriage requires fidelity, equality, respect, pope says
VATICAN CITY — Strengthening Catholic teaching about the sanctity of marriage must include emphasizing the essential roles of fidelity, equality and mutual respect in the relationship of a married couple, Pope Benedict XVI told bishops from Papua New Guinea.
The family, based on the marriage of one man and one woman, is "the basic unit of society and the first place where faith and culture are appropriated," the pope told the bishops June 9 at the end of their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican.
For Catholics, the pope said, marriage also is "a covenant which has been raised by Christ to the supernatural level of a sacrament, through which a husband and wife participate in the love of God as they become one flesh, pledging to love and respect each other while remaining open to God's gift of children."
Pope Benedict said that while the role of the family has been recognized throughout history, "particular attention needs to be given at the present time to the religious, social and moral goods of fidelity, equality and mutual respect that must exist between husband and wife."
The church in Papua New Guinea is celebrating the centennial of the birth of Blessed Peter To Rot, a catechist who was married with three children when the Japanese invaded Papua New Guinea during World War II and imprisoned all the priests. To Rot, a catechist, continued teaching and leading the people in prayer, but was arrested and martyred after preaching against polygamy, which the Japanese promoted in a bid to win favor with local tribal chiefs.
Pope Benedict said Blessed To Rot "shed his blood in defense of the sanctity of marriage."
Polygamy is still legal in Papua New Guinea and is practiced among some tribal groups.
Pope Benedict also encouraged the bishops to continue their assistance to the poor, the marginalized and the sick, especially people living with HIV/AIDS, and to speak out publicly for government policies that promote the common good.
"When the church voices her concern in the public square, she does so legitimately and in order to contribute to the common good, not proposing concrete political solutions," but helping people apply objective moral principles to concrete situations, he said.
— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service