VATICAN CITY -- Christian families are called to welcome, demonstrate and spread the love and presence of Christ in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.
A family, founded on the marriage of a man and woman and open to having children, is "the human space for an encounter with Christ," he said Dec. 1 in a speech to members of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The council, founded by Pope John Paul II, was marking the 30th anniversary of its establishment by focusing on the role of the family in the "new evangelization."
"The eclipse of God, the spread of ideologies contrary to the family and the degradation of sexual ethics appear to be connected," the pope said. In the same way, he said, "the new evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family."
Like the church as a whole, the Christian family "is called to welcome, radiate and demonstrate the love and presence of Christ in the world," he said.
The family does so by being a community of lifelong, self-giving love, he said. It is open to welcoming new life, it educates its members in the faith and in charity, and its civic involvement and charitable activity is motivated by faith.
When a Christian family "is able to live love as communion and service, as a mutual gift and openness toward all, it reflects the splendor of Christ and the beauty of the divine Trinity in the world," the pope said.
Pope Benedict said the church needs strong couples involved in its pastoral work, too, especially in educating children, teaching young people about the Christian vision of sexuality, preparing engaged couples for marriage and helping married couples strengthen their relationships.