by Margaret Antonio
From November 17-19, leaders and scholars from around the world are gathering in Rome to examine the meaning of marriage and family life and its role in society. Entitled, The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium, the gathering is sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Councils for the Family, for Interreligious Dialogue, and for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
The colloquium takes on the name, “Humanum,” which refers to the complementarity of man and woman that gives life to all of humanity. The official website for the colloquium, humanum.it, says, “It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.”
The colloquium features 30 speakers from 23 countries and 14 religious traditions. Pope Francis delivered the opening address on Monday. He compared the crisis of the family in today’s society as an ecological crisis, endangered as are natural environments, and likewise, in need of protection. He also directly impressed upon the participants the necessity of the colloquium’s objectives in the interest of young people today.
"I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future," Pope Francis said. "Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern."
The Holy Father’s address and full-length video recordings of all the speakers are available on the Humanum website. The colloquium is also producing a series of six videos, each reflecting one of the colloquium’s main themes, including “A Hidden Sweetness: The Power of Marriage Amidst Hardship”, “The Destiny of Humanity: On the Meaning of Marriage”, and “The Cradle of Life and Love.”
In looking at the topic of the unity of man and woman, speakers also examined how we think of the individual person as well. Dr. Tomás Melendo, a professor of Metaphysics at the University of Málaga in Spain, highlighted the way in which society often applies quantitative terms to persons. “I prefer to employ qualitative terms. Each person isn’t more or less or equal to, because we’re not quantities,” Dr. Melendo said. “Each one is unique.”
In the second video, “The Cradle of Life and Love,” Theresa Okafor, the director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage in Nigeria, calls attention to marriage as being at the core of society. “Marriage gives rise to a family,” she says, “and the family is the first human society, which we can say is the cradle of love and life. Marriage is important because it leads to social cohesion.”
Ultimately, the interreligious, international colloquium seeks to renew and reinvigorate the meaning of marriage and family life in the interest of the well being of society. However, as Pope Francis said in his address to the colloquium, “’complementarity’ does not roll lightly off the tongue!” Nevertheless, despite the difficulty of the topic, as both Pope Francis and the Colloquium emphasize, “Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.”