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“Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother,” Pope Francis said this morning at a Vatican-sponsored international conference on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage. 

But the pope told attendees that the family is in a state of “crisis” that has been created by a “revolution in manners and morals” in which people are “giving up on marriage as a public commitment.”

The family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, “is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact,” the pope said. “We cannot qualify it with concepts of an ideological nature, that are relevant only in a single moment of history, and then pass by.”

The pope was addressing this morning the opening session of the “International Interreligious Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman,” which is being co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Among the speakers over the next three days will be representatives of a number of religions, with the purpose to “examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.”

“We now live in a culture of the temporary,” the pope said, in which this revolution “has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Pope Francis rejected the common framing of the debate as between “conservative” and “progressive,” saying, “Family is family! It can't be qualified by ideological notions. Family has a strength of its own.” 

Comparing the crisis of the family with that of the natural environment, Pope Francis said that the disintegration has produced a crisis “of the human ecology.”

“Although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church.” The pope called for the Church to create and advance a “new human ecology.”

He called the family one of the “fundamental pillars that govern a nation” and urged young people not to “give themselves over to the poisonous mentality of the temporary,” but to “be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.”

In remarks today to the visiting Catholic bishops of Zambia, Pope Francis again warned against the social movements that “militate against stability in social and ecclesial life, in particular for families.”

“When family life is endangered, then the life of faith is also put at risk. As you yourselves have recounted, many – especially the poor in their struggle for survival – are led astray by empty promises in false teachings that seem to offer quick relief in times of desperation.”

Also addressing the conference this morning was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who told delegates that the inherent knowledge of the complementarity between man and woman is naturally opposed to the “inadequacy of the markedly individualistic trait so characteristic to the modern mentality” that is “unfortunately now diffused in many parts of the world.”

“The difference between man and woman [is an] essential element to understand the human being and his journey towards God,” the cardinal emphasized. “The human body, in its sexual difference, is not a chance product of blind evolution or an anonymous determination of elements.”

The physical expression of this complementarity,  Cardinal Müller said, is found in the generation of children. “The union of the two,” man and woman, “making themselves ‘one flesh,’ is proven precisely in the one flesh of those generated by that union.”

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“The relationship of the parents with the baby, where both open out beyond themselves, is a privileged way to understand the difference between the man and the woman in their role as father and mother,” he said.

“Complementarity is not understood, therefore, when we consider man and woman in an isolated form, but when we consider them in the prospective of the mystery to which their union opens out and, in a concrete way, when we look at male and female in light of the relationship with the child.”

The addresses by Pope Francis and Cardinal Müller on the opening day of the conference, which is being seen by many as an antidote to the confusion generated by October’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, have been welcomed by Voice of the Family, an umbrella group of international pro-family organizations.

Speaking from the office of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, one of Voice of the Family’s member organizations, Anthony Ozimic told LifeSiteNews that the addresses “will go far to dispel the confusion caused by last month's Extraordinary Synod on the Family.”

“We hope that, in future addresses, Pope Francis will go into greater detail and rule out specifically the scandalous ideas proposed during the Extraordinary Synod,” which included the suggestion that the Catholic Church should “accept and value” the homosexual “orientation.”

“The protection of human life depends in great measure upon marriage as an exclusive life-long union of one man and one woman open to life. The unorthodox ideas proposed during the Extraordinary Synod serve to undermine that protection.”