Spanish Bishops' Letters of Thanks
To Holy Father and Archbishop García-Gasco

MADRID, Spain, JULY 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The executive committee of the Spanish episcopal conference sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in which it expresses "its profound gratitude for having come to Spain to close the 5th World Meeting of Families."

In addition, the seven members of the executive committee signed a letter of gratitude sent to Archbishop Agustin García-Gasco of Valencia -- host prelate of the meeting that gathered 1.5 million people around the Pontiff -- in which they express "the most sincere thanks for the work carried out, which was crowned by the success of this unforgettable event."

Here is the full text of both letters, made public on Thursday by the Spanish episcopal conference.

* * *
Benedict XVI

Holy Father:

The Executive Committee of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, meeting for the first time after the visit Your Holiness made to Valencia the past days of 8 and 9 of this month of July, wishes to express to the Pope its profound gratitude for having come to Spain to close the 5th World Meeting of Families.

We echo the feelings of the bishops and all the faithful in assuring Your Holiness that Valencia's two days with the Pope have confirmed us in the faith and filled us with joy. The bishops are thankful, in particular, for the words of encouragement contained in the message that you saw fit to address to us. All, pastors and laity, in a special way Catholic families, will proclaim with new vigor the good news of the family based on marriage.

In filial communion with Your Holiness,

Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Bishop of Bilbao, President of the SEC

Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, Vice-President of the SEC

Antonio Ma. Rouco Varela, Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid

Carlos Amigo Vallejo, Cardinal Archbishop of Seville

Luis Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona

Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Oviedo

Juan A. Martínez Camino, Secretary General of the SEC

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Pope's Discourse at Vigil of Family Meeting

"Children Have the Right to a Home Like That of Nazareth"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Saturday night, during the Vigil of the 5th World Meeting of Families.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am most happy to take part in this prayer meeting which is meant to celebrate with great joy God's gift of the family. I feel very close in prayer to all those who have recently experienced this city's mourning and in our hope in the Risen Christ, which provides light and strength even at times of immense human tragedy.

United by the same faith in Christ, we have gathered here from so many parts of the world as a community which, with gratitude and joy, bears witness that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God for love, and that complete human fulfillment only comes about when we make a sincere gift of ourselves to others.

The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love. That is why the Church constantly wishes to demonstrate her pastoral concern for this reality, so basic for the human person.

This is what she teaches in her Magisterium: "God, who is love and who created man and woman for love, has called them to love. By creating man and woman he called them to an intimate communion of life and love in marriage. 'So they are no longer two but one flesh' (Matthew 19:6)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Compendium, 337).

This is the truth that the Church tirelessly proclaims to the world. My beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II said that man has been made "in the image and likeness of God not only by his being human, but also by the communion of the persons that man and woman have formed since the beginning. They become the image of God, not so much in their aloneness as in their communion" (Catechesis, 14 November 1979).

That is why I confirmed the calling of this Fifth World Meeting of Families in Spain, and specifically here in Valencia, a city rich in tradition and proud of the Christian faith lived and nurtured in so many of its families.

The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place. The family is itself based primarily on a deep interpersonal relationship between husband and wife, sustained by affection and mutual understanding. To enable this, it receives abundant help from God in the sacrament of matrimony, which brings with it a true vocation to holiness.

Would that our children might experience more the harmony and affection between their parents, rather than disagreements and discord, since the love between father and mother is a source of great security for children and its teaches them the beauty of a faithful and lasting love.

The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents. To proclaim the whole truth about the family, based on marriage as a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all.

Father and mother have said a complete "yes" in the sight of God, which constitutes the basis of the sacrament which joins them together. Likewise, for the inner relationship of the family to be complete, they also need to say a "yes" of acceptance to the children whom they have given birth to or adopted, and each of which has his or her own personality and character.

In this way, children will grow up in a climate of acceptance and love, and upon reaching sufficient maturity, will then want to say "yes" in turn to those who gave them life.

The challenges of present-day society, marked by the centrifugal forces generated especially in urban settings, make it necessary to ensure that families do not feel alone. A small family can encounter difficult obstacles when it is isolated from relatives and friends.

The ecclesial community therefore has the responsibility of offering support, encouragement and spiritual nourishment which can strengthen the cohesiveness of the family, especially in times of trial or difficulty. Here parishes have an important role to play, as do the various ecclesial associations, called to cooperate as networks of support and a helping hand for the growth of families in faith.

Christ has shown us what is always the supreme source of our life and thus of the lives of families: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one had greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:12-13).

The love of God himself has been poured out upon us in baptism. Consequently, families are called to experience this same kind of love, for the Lord makes it possible for us, through our human love, to be sensitive, loving and merciful like Christ.

Together with passing on the faith and the love of God, one of the greatest responsibilities of families is that of training free and responsible persons. For this reason the parents need gradually to give their children greater freedom, while remaining for some time the guardians of that freedom.

If children see that their parents -- and, more generally, all the adults around them -- live life with joy and enthusiasm, despite all difficulties, they will themselves develop that profound "joy of life" which can help them to overcome wisely the inevitable obstacles and problems which are part of life. Furthermore, when families are not closed in on themselves, children come to learn that every person is worthy of love, and that there is a basic, universal brotherhood which embraces every human being.

This Fifth World Meeting invites us to reflect on a theme of particular importance, one fraught with great responsibility: the transmission of faith in the family. This theme is nicely expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "As a mother who teacher her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith" (No. 171).

This is symbolically in the liturgy of baptism: with the handing over of the lighted candle, the parents are made part of the mystery of new life as children of God given to their sons and daughters in the waters of baptism.

To hand down the faith to children, with the help of individuals and institutions like the parish, the school or Catholic associations, is a responsibility which parents cannot overlook, neglect or completely delegate to others.

"The Christian family is called the domestic church because the family manifests and lives out the communal and familiar nature of the Church as the family of God. Each family member, in accord with his or her own role, exercises the baptismal priesthood and contributes towards making the family a community of grace and of prayer, a school of human and Christian virtues, and the place where the faith is first proclaimed to children" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Compendium, 350).

And what is more: "Parents, in virtue of their participation in the fatherhood of God, have the first responsibility for the education of their children and they are the first heralds of the faith for them. They have the duty to love and respect their children as persons and as children of God ... in particular, they have the mission of educating their children in the Christian faith" (ibid, 460).

The language of faith is learned in homes where this faith grows and is strengthened through prayer and Christian practice. In the reading from Deuteronomy we have heard the prayer constantly repeated by the Chosen People, the "Shema Israel," which Jesus himself would have heard and recited in his home in Nazareth.

He himself would refer to it during his public life, as we see in the Gospel of Mark (12:29). This is the faith of the Church, which is born of God's love which comes through your families. To live the fullness of this faith, in all its wondrous newness, is a great gift. All the same, at those times when God's face seems to be hidden, believing can be difficult and takes great effort.

This meeting provides a new impetus for proclaiming the Gospel of the family, reaffirming the strength and identity of the family founded upon marriage and open to the generous gift of life, where children are accompanied in their bodily and spiritual growth.

This is the best way to counter a widespread hedonism which reduces human relations to banality and empties them of their authentic value and beauty. To promote the values of marriage does not stand in the way of fully experiencing the happiness that man and women encounter in their mutual love.

Christian faith and ethics are not meant to stifle love, but to make it healthier, stronger and more truly free. Human love needs to be purified and to mature if it is to be fully human and the principle of a true and lasting joy (cf. Address at Saint John Lateran, June 5, 2006).

And so I invite government leaders and legislators to reflect on the evident benefits which homes in peace and harmony assure to individuals and the family, the neuralgic center of society, as the Holy See has stated in the Charter of the Rights of the Family.

The purpose of laws is the integral good of man, in response to his needs and aspirations. This good is a significant help to society, of which it cannot be deprived, and for peoples a safeguard and a purification.

The family is also a school which enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity. The experience of being loved by their parents helps children to become aware of their dignity as children.

Children need to be brought up in the faith, to be loved and protected. Along with their basic right to be born and to be raised in the faith, children also have the right to a home which takes as its model the home of Nazareth, and to be shielded from all dangers and threats.

I would now like to say a word to grandparents, who are so important for every family. They can be -- and so often are -- the guarantors of the affection and tenderness which every human being needs to give and receive. They offer little ones the perspective of time, they are memory and richness of families. In no way should they ever be excluded from the family circle. They are a treasure which the younger generation should not be denied, especially when they bear witness to their faith at the approach of death.

I now wish to recite a part of the prayer which you have prayed in asking for the success of this World Meeting of Families.

O God, who in the Holy Family
left us a perfect model of family life
lived in faith and obedience to your will,
Help us to be examples of faith and love for your commandments.
Help us in our mission of transmitting the faith that we received from our parents.
Open the hearts of our children
so that the seed of faith, which they received in baptism, will grow in them.
Strengthen the faith of our young people,
that they may grow in knowledge of Jesus.
Increase love and faithfulness in all marriages,
especially those going through times of suffering or difficulty.
(...)
United to Joseph and Mary,
we ask this through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.

[Original text: Spanish]

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Papal Address at Welcoming Ceremony
"Family Is Unique Institution in God's Plan"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Saturday morning at the Valencia-Manises international airport, during the welcome ceremony.

* * *

Your Majesties,
Mr. President of the Government,
Distinguished Authorities,
My Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

1. With great joy I come today to Valencia, to the noble and much-loved land of Spain, which has given me so many grateful memories from my earlier visits for congresses and meetings.

2. I cordially greet all of you, those here present and all those following this ceremony through the communications media.

I am grateful to His Majesty King Juan Carlos for his presence, together with the Queen, and in particular I thank him for his words of welcome in the name of the Spanish people.

I express my respectful appreciation to the President of the Government and to the other national, autonomous-regional and municipal authorities. I am grateful for their cooperation in the organization of this Fifth World Meeting.

I greet with affection the Archbishop of Valencia, Monsignor Agustín García-Gasco, his auxiliary bishops, and the whole levantine Archdiocese for their warm welcome to this World Meeting. I know that in these days you are grieving with the families mourning their dear ones who were victims of a tragic accident, and are also close to the injured.

My affectionate greeting also goes to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, and to the other cardinals, the president and members of the Spanish episcopal conference, the priests, the consecrated persons and all the lay faithful.

3. My reason for this long-awaited visit is to take part in the Fifth World Meeting of Families, whose theme is "The Transmission of Faith in the Family." I wish to set forth the central role, for the Church and for society, proper to the family based on marriage. The family is a unique institution in God's plan, and the Church cannot fail to proclaim and promote its fundamental importance, so that it can live out its vocation with a constant sense of responsibility and joy.

4. My venerable predecessor, a great friend of Spain, the beloved John Paul II, convoked this Meeting. Prompted by the same pastoral solicitude, tomorrow I will have the privilege of concluding it with the celebration of Holy Mass in the City of Arts and Sciences.

In union with all taking part, I will implore from the Lord, through the intercession of our Most Holy Mother and the Apostle Saint James, plentiful graces for the families of Spain and of the whole world.

May the Lord abundantly bless all of you and your beloved families!

Original text: Spanish; translation issued by the Holy See.

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Benedict XVI's Homily at Closing Mass
"Parents Are Called to Witness to Their Faith and Hope"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the closing Mass of the 5th World Meeting of Families.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Holy Mass which it is my great joy to celebrate, together with many of my Brothers in the Episcopate and a great number of priests, I give thanks to the Lord for all of you, the joyful throng of beloved families gathered in this place, and the many others who in distant lands are following this celebration by radio and television. I greet all of you with an affectionate embrace.

Both Esther and Paul, as we have just heard in today's readings, testify that the family is called to work for the handing on of the faith.

Esther admits: "Ever since I was born, I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations" (14:5).

Paul follows the tradition of his Jewish ancestors by worshiping God with a pure conscience. He praises the sincere faith of Timothy and speaks to him about "a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and now, I am sure, lives in you" (2 Timothy 1:15).

In these biblical testimonies, the family includes not only parents and children, but also grandparents and ancestors. The family thus appears to us as a community of generations and the guarantee of a patrimony of traditions.

None of us gave ourselves life or single-handedly learned how to live. All of us received from others both life itself and its basic truths, and we have been called to attain perfection in relationship and loving communion with others.

The family, founded on indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, is the _expression of this relational, filial and communal aspect of life. It is the setting where men and women are enabled to be born with dignity, and to grow and develop in an integral manner.

Once children are born, through their relationship with their parents, they begin to share in a family tradition with even older roots. Together with the gift of life, they receive a whole patrimony of experience. Parents have the right and the inalienable duty to transmit this heritage to their children: to help them find their own identity, to initiate them to the life of society, to foster the responsible exercise of their moral freedom and their ability to love on the basis of their having been loved and, above all, to enable them to encounter God.

Children experience human growth and maturity to the extent that they trustingly accept this heritage and training which they gradually make their own. They are thus enabled to make a personal synthesis between what has been passed on and what is new, a synthesis that every individual and generation is called to make.

At the origin of every man and woman, and thus in all human fatherhood and motherhood, we find God the Creator. For this reason, married couples must accept the child born to them, not simply as theirs alone, but also as a child of God, loved for his or her own sake and called to be a son or daughter of God. What is more: each generation, all parenthood and every family has its origin in God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Esther's father had passed on to her, along with the memory of her forebears and her people, the memory of a God who is the origin of all and to whom all are called to answer. The memory of God the Father, who chose a people for himself and who acts in history for our salvation. The memory of this Father sheds light on our deepest human identity: where we come from, who we are, and how great is our dignity.

Certainly we come from our parents and we are their children, but we also come from God who has created us in his image and called us to be his children. Consequently, at the origin of every human being there is not something haphazard or chance, but a loving plan of God. This was revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and a perfect man. He knew whence he came and whence all of us have come: from the love of his Father and our Father.

Faith, then, is not merely a cultural heritage, but the constant working of the grace of God who calls and our human freedom, which can respond or not to his call. Even if no one can answer for another person, Christian parents are still called to give a credible witness of their Christian faith and hope. The need to ensure that God's call and the good news of Christ will reach their children with the utmost clarity and authenticity.

As the years pass, this gift of God which the parents have helped set before the eyes of the little ones will also need to be cultivated with wisdom and gentleness, in order to instill in them a capacity for discernment. Thus, with the constant witness of the their parents' conjugal love, permeated with a living faith, and with the loving accompaniment of the Christian community, children will be helped better to appropriate the gift of their faith, to discover the deepest meaning of their own lives and to respond with joy and gratitude.

The Christian family passes on the faith when parents teach their children to pray and when they pray with them (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 60); when they lead them to the sacraments and gradually introduce them to the life of the Church; when all join in reading the Bible, letting the light of faith shine on their family life and praising God as our Father.

In contemporary culture, we often see an excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual as an autonomous subject, as if we were self-created and self-sufficient, apart from our relationship with others and our responsibilities in their regard.

Attempts are being made to organize the life of society on the basis of subjective and ephemeral desires alone, with no reference to objective, prior truths such as the dignity of each human being and his inalienable rights and duties, which every social group is called to serve.

The Church does not cease to remind us that true human freedom derives from our having been created in God's image and likeness. Christian education is consequently an education in freedom and for freedom.

"We do not do good as slaves, who are not free to act otherwise, but we do it because we are personally responsible for the world; because we love truth and goodness, because we love God himself and therefore his creatures as well. This is the true freedom to which the Holy Spirit wants to lead us (Homily for the Vigil of Pentecost, June 9, 2006).

Jesus Christ is the perfect human being, an example of filial freedom, who teaches us to share with others his own love: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love" (John 15:9).

And so the Second Vatican Council teaches that "Christian married couples and parents, following their own way, should support one another in grace all through life with faithful love, and should train their children, lovingly received from God, in Christian doctrine and evangelical virtues. Because in this way they present to all an example of unfailing and generous love, they build up the brotherhood of charity, and they stand as witnesses and co-operators of the fruitfulness of Mother Church, as a sign of and a share in that love with which Christ loved his Bride and gave himself for her" (Lumen Gentium, 41).

The joyful love with which our parents welcomed us and accompanied our first steps in this world is like a sacramental sign and prolongation of the benevolent love of God from which we have come. The experience of being welcomed and loved by God and by our parents is always the firm foundation for authentic human growth and authentic development, helping us to mature on the way towards truth and love, and to move beyond ourselves in order to enter into communion with others and with God.

To help us advance along the path of human maturity, the Church teaches us to respect and foster the marvelous reality of the indissoluble marriage between man and woman which is also the origin of the family. To recognize and assist this institution is one of the greatest services which can be rendered nowadays to the common good and to the authentic development of individuals and societies, as well as the best means of ensuring the dignity, equality and true freedom of the human person.

This being the case, I want to stress the importance and the positive role which the Church's various family associations are playing in support of marriage and the family. Consequently, "I wish to call on all Christians to collaborate cordially and courageously with all people of good will who are serving the family in accordance with their responsibility" (Familiaris Consortio, 86), so that by joining forces in a legitimate plurality of initiatives they will contribute to the promotion of the authentic good of the family in contemporary society.

Let us return for a moment to the first reading of this Mass, drawn from the Book of Esther. The Church at prayer has seen in this humble queen interceding with all her heart for her suffering people, a prefigurement of Mary, whom her Son has given to us all as our Mother; a prefigurement of the Mother who protects by her love God's family on its earthly pilgrimage. Mary is the image and model of all mothers, of their great mission to be guardians of life, of their mission to be teachers of the art of living and of the art of loving.

The Christian family -- father, mother and children -- is called, then, to do all these things not as a task imposed from without, but rather as a gift of the sacramental grace of marriage poured out upon the spouses. If they remain open to the Spirit and implore his help, he will not fail to bestow on them the love of God the Father made manifest and incarnate in Christ.

The presence of the Spirit will help spouses not to lose sight of the source and criterion of their love and self-giving, and to cooperate with him to make it visible and incarnate in every aspect of their lives.

The Spirit will also awaken in them a yearning for the definitive encounter with Christ in the house of his Father and our Father. And this is the message of hope that, from Valencia, I wish to share with all the families of the world. Amen.

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After Mass in Valencia
"Open Your Homes and Hearts to Christ"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Sunday before praying the Angelus at the end of the closing Mass of the 5th World Meeting of Families.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before ending this celebration, we turn to the Virgin Mary, whom so many families invoke in the intimacy of their homes, to assist them with her maternal concern.

With the intercession of Mary, open your homes and hearts to Christ so that he will be your strength and joy, and help you to live united and to proclaim to the world the invincible power of true love.

At this time I wish to thank all those who have made possible the smooth unfolding of this meeting. In a particular way, I wish to acknowledge the sacrificial and efficient work of numerous volunteers of so many nationalities for their abnegated collaboration in all the ceremonies.

I dedicate special thanks to the numerous individuals and religious communities, especially the cloistered, who have supported all the celebrations with their persevering prayer.

Now I have the joy to announce that the next World Meeting of Families will be held in the year 2009 in Mexico City.

To the beloved Church which journeys in the noble Mexican nation and in the person of the Lord Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of that city, I already express my gratitude for his acceptance.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Polish. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking participants who have gathered from various parts of the world. I trust that your experiences here will have strengthened your commitment to promoting the integrity of family life.

May God abundantly bless you and all those you represent, and through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, may you and your families be filled with the wisdom of her Son.

[He then continued in Spanish, saying:]

I embrace from my heart all the families here present and those who have joined this celebration through radio, television or other means of social communication.

I entrust all to the Holy Family of Nazareth, that it may protect them and that, following its silent example, they may help children grow in wisdom, age and grace before God and men (cf. Luke 2:52).

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Papal Letter to Spanish Bishops
Exhorts Them to "Continue Dauntlessly"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's letter to the Spanish bishops, which he delivered on Saturday in the Holy Chalice Chapel in Valencia's cathedral.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

With heartfelt joy I give thanks to the Lord that I have been able to come to Spain as Pope, in order to take part in the World Meeting of Families in Valencia. I greet you with affection, my brother bishops of this beloved country, and I thank you for your presence here and for the hard work put into the preparation and celebration of this visit.

I am especially appreciative of the efforts of the archbishop of Valencia and his auxiliary bishops to make this event, so significant for the entire Church, bear its desired fruit and give new impulse to the family as a sanctuary of love, life and faith.

Indeed, your solicitude has already made it possible to create a family-like setting among the organizers and participants from throughout Spain. This is a very promising sign in light of the desires which you expressed in your joint message on this World Meeting, and at the same time an incentive to build on its results in pursuing an ongoing and decisive pastoral outreach to families in your dioceses, making it possible for every home to receive the Gospel message, which confirms and enriches love and thus helps it to overcome whatever difficulties it may encounter.

You know that I follow closely and with much interest the life of the Church in your country, a country with deep Christian roots, one which has greatly contributed and must still contribute to the proclamation and spread of the faith to many other parts of the world. Keep alive and vigorous this spirit, which has accompanied the life of Spaniards throughout their history, so that it will help nourish and vitalize the soul of your people.

I am aware of, and I encourage the impulse that you are giving to pastoral activity at a time of rapid secularization, which can also affect the internal life of Christian communities. Continue dauntlessly to proclaim that prescinding from God, acting as if he did not exist or relegating faith to the purely private sphere, undermines the truth about man and compromises the future of culture and society.

On the contrary, lifting one's gaze to the living God, the guarantor of our freedom and of truth, is a premise for arriving at a new humanity. Nowadays, in a special way, the world needs people capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to God who is love, and consequently the one light which in the end, illumines the darkness of the world and gives us strength to live and work (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 39).

In times and situations of difficulty, recall those words of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, disregarding the shame ... so that you may not grow weary or lose heart" (12:1-3).

Proclaim that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16), "the one who has the words of eternal life" (cf. John 6:68), and you will not tire of giving reason for your hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

Prompted by your pastoral solicitude and the spirit of full communion in the proclamation of the Gospel, you have guided the Christian conscience of the faithful about different aspects of the situation confronting them, which occasionally disturb ecclesial life and the faith of the simple.

You have also made the Eucharist a central theme of your pastoral plan, with the aim of "revitalizing the Christian life from its very heart, since when we enter into the Eucharistic mystery we encounter the heart of God" (No. 5). Certainly in the Eucharist there takes place "the central act of transformation capable of truly renewing the world" (Homily in Marienfeld, Cologne, August 21, 2005).

Brothers in the episcopate, I exhort you earnestly to preserve and increase your fraternal communion, as a witness and model of the ecclesial communion which should reign in all the faithful people entrusted to your care.

I pray for you, and I pray for Spain. I ask you to pray for me and for the whole Church.

I invoke the Most Holy Virgin Mary, so greatly venerated in your land, asking that she protect and accompany you in your pastoral ministry, and to all of you I impart with great affection my apostolic blessing.

Valencia, July 8, 2006

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope's Farewell Address
"The Marriage Covenant Is a Great Good for All Humanity"

VALENCIA, Spain, JULY 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Sunday at the Valencia-Manises airport during the farewell ceremony.

* * *

Your Majesties,
Mr. President of the Government,
Distinguished Authorities,
My Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

1. At the conclusion of my very pleasant stay in Valencia for the 5th World Meeting of Families, I express my deep gratitude to their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, the national authorities, the Generalidad of Valencia and the mayor's office, as well as to the archbishop and every one of you, for the kind hospitality and evident affection which you have shown me at every moment of my visit to this flourishing levantine land.

2. I am confident that, with the help of the Most High and the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, this meeting will keep echoing like a joyful song of the love, life and of faith shared by families, and help today's world to understand that the marriage covenant, whereby man and woman establish a permanent bond, is a great good for all humanity.

3. I thank you for your presence here. You have come from all the continents of the world, at considerable sacrifice, which you have accepted and offered to the Lord. You have a special place in my heart. My heartfelt prayer is that Almighty God will bless you today and always.

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