ROME, March 29, 2011 ( – The Catholic bishops of Latin America must protect families and children from “education programs which trivialize sexuality” and “false ideologies” Pope Benedict XVI said in an address this week.

The Latin American bishops’ conferences must focus on “promoting a culture of life and working to ensure the rights of families are recognized and respected,” the pope said. The wellbeing of families in the region, he added, is also under threat from “rapid cultural changes and social instability,” poverty and migration of people. 

Pope Benedict was addressing an assembly of bishops who serve as the heads of local Catholic organizations across Latin America that are dedicated to promoting family life. The prelates are meeting this week in Bogota, Colombia, with Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Christine Vollmer, head of Venezuela’s Alliance for the Family, told that she is pleased with the pope’s forthright statement of support for the struggles of families in Latin America.

“It is wonderful that the Holy Father understands our needs here in Latin America, and that the bishops are really studying the problems and putting them as a first priority,” said Vollmer, who is also a founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“The Pope is completely right,” she said. It is “cultural poverty” that is “the worst thing and the one undermining not only marriage but their faith as well.”

“The cultural and educational poverty” that is rife in Latin America, “has left millions completely imprisoned in a life style which is barely human. It is much more grave than monetary poverty.”

In his letter, Benedict also said: “No effort is in vain if it helps to ensure that each family, founded on the indissoluble bond between a man and a woman, carries out its mission as a living cell of society, seedbed of virtues, school of constructive and peaceful coexistence, instrument of harmony and a privileged area in which, with joy and responsibility, human life is welcomed and protected, from beginning to natural end.”

The pope said that he particularly wanted to encourage parents in their “right – and their fundamental duty – to educate the new generations in faith and in the values that dignify human existence.”

Vollmer agreed with Pope Benedict, saying, “The example and a culture of virtue is no longer there for young people. All the ‘models’ are dreadful, coming out of TV, MTV, video games and Hollywood.”

Vollmer is the co-author of a catechetical and relationship education program for young people that uses the teaching of the Catholic Church as its foundation and which is being used in schools across Venezuela.

The curriculum, called Alive to the World (Aprendiendo a Querer), covers children from age 6 to age 18 and focuses on the life of virtue. It is being promoted by the Catholic Church as a morally healthy alternative to standard secularist “sex-education” programs, but is even becoming popular in non-Catholic, state-run schools where improvements in behavior have been noted following its implementation.

The Catholic bishops of the Latin American region have a strong track record of defending life and family from attacks that have for years come from United Nations-based pro-abortion and anti-family organizations.

The pope encouraged the bishops to “find ways to collaborate with all men and women of good will in order to continue to protect human life, marriage and the family throughout the region.”