One of the lessons learned from this week's Vatican conference on marriage, say organizers, is that the beauty of man and woman's complementarity is not political, but is rather the human experience. The Humanum Colloquium, which ran Nov. 17-19, heard testimonies from people of more than a dozen religious traditions speaking on the theme of the complementarity of man and woman. Helen Alvaré, law professor at George Mason University and communications liaison for the colloquium, recounted to CNA that “the question of the relationship between man and woman is (not) only a political question,” but rather, it is “a matter of human experience, human happiness, human freedom, or the Divine plan.” Alvaré stressed the importance of remembering the time it takes to understand the notion of complementarity, not only in one's own relationship, but in today's climate. “We should be really patient with people who are struggling” to understand the notion of complementarity, she said, “especially young people.” “We need to begin getting this language out,” she added, “but also cautioning them that it’s going to take them some time actually living it to understand it.” The final day of the gathering began with the General Audience with Pope Francis, followed in the afternoon with presentations from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who spoke on the upcoming World Meeting of Families which is set to take place Sept. 2015, and from Dr. Kala Acharya, a Hindu who is director of an institute dedicated to inter-religious dialogue among Hindus, Christians, and Muslims. Speaking on the variety of religious traditions represented in the discussions of man and woman, “some of which overlap, some of which do not,” Alvaré noted the “fabulous affirmation of a natural appreciation for the natural attraction between man and woman, the fact that man and woman are the origin of all human life.” “There was different language coming at the same concept: there is a duality in nature, (and) man and woman are the highest example of that,” she said, adding that it is meaningful that God made a “two-sexed humanity,” and the conference explored that meaning, with all of the talks centering on one common theme: “the beauty of complementarity.” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who attended the colloquium, told CNA the gathering was an opportunity to learn from one another, and to recognize those truths that are in common. “On the one hand, we do have to be careful not to just sort of water-down our unique identities, and what we hope to be true. But, we can recognize there are fundamental truths that we share in common.” “It’s not a matter of trying to blend us all into one sort of world religion,” the archbishop continued. “The world seems to be falling apart at the seams, if I may put it that way, with so much violence and human trafficking and drug trafficking ... we need the power of faith to heal the world.” One of the aspects which arose from the Humanum conference, said participant Fr. Scott Borgman, an official for the Pontifical Academy for Life in an interview with CNA, “was a universal love and acceptance of the family as it is defined, as a man and a woman,” and, echoing the Pope's words on Nov. 17, “the right of a child to have a father and a mother.” Bringing together representatives from “different cultures, different languages, different religious affiliations,” he said, testifies that those in the media promoting the breakdown of the family do not represent the majority. “This is the rest of the world,” he said, “standing up and saying: Look! We need our voice to be heard.”
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