In his address to the three men and their entourages, the Pope highlighted how the people of Rome and Lazio had clearly expressed their affection for Pope John Paul II during the period of his final illness and death. He also thanked the authorities and institutions for their "great contribution" in welcoming the millions of people who came to Rome "to pay their final homage to the lamented Pontiff, and on the occasion of my own election to the See of Peter."
That "profound spiritual experience of faith and of prayer, of brotherhood and of rediscovery of the things that make our lives worthwhile and rich in meaning," must also bear fruit within "the civil community, its duties and its multiple responsibilities and relationships."
Going on to refer to the family, the Holy Father recalled that for three years it has represented the central focus of the pastoral activities of the diocese of Rome, "in order to help [the family] face the reasons behind the crises and distrust present in our own culture, giving it a clearer and firmer awareness of its own nature and tasks."
Benedict XVI then recalled the words he had used in June 2005 during the congress of the diocese of Rome, to the effect that "marriage and the family are not in fact a chance sociological construction, the product of particular historical and financial situations. On the other hand, the question of the right relationship between man and woman is rooted in the essential core of the human being and it is only by starting from here that its response can be found. ... Marriage as an institution is thus not an undue interference of society or of authority. The external imposition of form on the most private reality of life is instead an intrinsic requirement of the covenant of conjugal love."
He continued: "What we are talking about here are not norms particular to Catholic morals, but elementary truths that concern our shared humanity. To respect them is essential for the good of the individual and of society. These truths, then, appeal both to your responsibility as public administrators and to your normative duties."
The Pope referred to the need to support young couples in forming a family and in educating their children, bearing in mind the cost of rent and of nursery schools, adding: "It is a grave error to obscure the value and the functions of the legitimate family based on marriage, attributing to other forms of union inappropriate forms of legal recognition, for which there is no real social need."
The Holy Father also asked that attention be given to "the protection of nascent human life," that there be no lack of "concrete assistance" to pregnant women experiencing difficulties, and that there be no introduction of drugs "that hide in one way or another the severity of abortion as a choice against life. In an aging society," he added, "help for the elderly and all the complex problems concerning the health care of citizens become ever more important."
After encouraging the administrators to continue with the efforts they are making in these matters, Benedict XVI stressed that "continuous scientific and technological developments in the field of healthcare and the commitment to contain costs should be promoted while maintaining firm the principle of the central importance of the sick person."
In the face of so many "cases of psychological suffering and illness," the Holy Father stressed the importance of giving "adequate help to families who often find themselves having to face extremely difficult situations." He concluded by expressing his satisfaction at the "growth over these years of various forms of collaboration between ecclesial volunteer organizations and the public administration of Rome city, province and region in the work of alleviating old and new forms of poverty which, unfortunately, afflict a large part of the population, especially many immigrants."