Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Four years ago, on Sept. 17, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution [66/292] proclaiming June 1 to be the annual Global Day of Parents to honor parents throughout the world for their selfless, life-long dedication to nurturing and protecting their children and helping their full maturation as human beings.

Today is June 1. So, dear parents in the room and dear parents throughout the world, Happy Parents Day!

It gives me great joy to welcome you — on this fourth commemoration of Global Parents Day — to this afternoon’s Conference on “The Importance of Fatherhood and Motherhood for Integral Development,” sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, in conjunction with the Universal Peace Federation.

The importance of moms and dads, and of their joint commitment in raising the next generation, cannot be overstated. The future of humanity depends on the how well moms and dads do in their mission as teachers in forming their children in values, socialization, trust, mutual respect and responsibility, education, hard work, affection, compassion, forgiveness, solidarity and ethical development.

Pope Francis describes the importance of the family in his exhortation, “The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia),” published last month.

“The welfare of the family,” he affirms, “is decisive for the future of the world” (AL 31).

Pope Francis speaks of the crucial importance of mothers, saying that an authentic feminism should never “negate motherhood” and that “the weakening of this maternal presence with its feminine qualities poses a grave risk to our world.” Without mothers being mothers, and without an appreciation of mothers as mothers, he said, society would be “dehumanized.”

This special capacity for nurturing life, shown particularly in motherhood, is, he states, the “strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism.” The mother who “watches over her child with tenderness and compassion,” he said, “helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy.” For all of these reasons, Pope Francis affirms that motherhood is “essential to society” (AL 173-175).

The Pope likewise speaks of the importance of fatherhood. “A father possessed of a clear and serene masculine identity who demonstrates affection and concern for his wife,” Pope Francis says, “is just as necessary [for children and society] as a caring mother.” Such a father “helps the child to perceive the limits of life, to be open to the challenges of the wider world, and to see the need for hard work and strenuous effort.” (175). Society needs to assist and encourage fathers to remain “close to his wife” and “close to his children as they grow” (AL 175-177).

Pope Francis, however, focuses his reflection not on mothers and fathers in their individual work, but in their harmonious cooperation for the good of their children, each other’s good and the good of society. Their combined service is greater than the sum of their individual work, and their children profit most from their complementary teamwork. Pope Francis says that “love from [both] a mother and a father” is “necessary for a child’s integral and harmonious development. … We are speaking not simply of the love of father and mother as individuals, but also of their mutual love, perceived as the source of one’s life and the solid foundation of the family. … Together they teach the value of reciprocity, of respect for differences and of being able to give and take” (172).

Moms and Dads as co-educators either instill in their children “trust and loving respect” by their affection, example and trustworthiness, or by their failure to provide in this way, leave their children questioning whether their parents “are sincerely concerned about them” (263). People think and act in a certain way because of what they learned from their early years of development. That’s why it’s so important to help moms and dads help children during those earliest years build the type of foundation that not only leads to lasting happiness and success of their children, but also redounds to the good of all of society.

For this reason, the Pope exhorts all to work to strengthen parents in providing this type of environment, this “integral ecology” (277), which is the grammar school of human existence. Our event this afternoon is meant to be a contribution toward this aim. Today, we have several speakers who will help nourish our understanding of the importance of motherhood and fatherhood for the integral development of men, women, boys, girls and all of society.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza is Apostolic Nuncio at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

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