Pope Francis on marriage and family

8 April 2016 – Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love)

The second Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis has been published today, Friday 8 April 2016. Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) is Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family.

Amoris Laetitia runs to 261 pages and is divided into nine chapters as follows:

  • Chapter One – In The Light The Word
  • Chapter 2 – The Experiences And Challenges Of Families
  • Chapter 3 – Looking To Jesus: The Vocation Of The Family
  • Chapter 4 – Love In Marriage
  • Chapter 5 – Love Made Fruitful
  • Chapter 6 – Some Pastoral Perspectives
  • Chapter 7 – Towards A Better Education Of Children
  • Chapter 8 – Accompanying, Discerning And Integrating Weakness
  • Chapter 9 – The Spirituality Of Marriage And The Family

Amoris Laetitia is being presented this morning in the Vatican by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and by the married couple Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome, and Professor Giuseppina De Simone Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. The press conference can be watched live on www.vatican.va.

6 July 2015: For families, the best wine is yet to come 

In his first homily during his Apostolic Voyage to South America, Pope Francis focused on Mary as a model for families as he spoke about the Gospel account of the wedding at Cana. More than one million people joined the Holy Father for Holy Mass in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador on 6 July. Below is a report on the homily from Vatican Radio: 

Christ’s miracle at Cana – turning water into wine – was made possible, the Pope said, precisely because the Blessed Virgin Mary “was attentive, left her concerns in God’s hands, and acted sensibly and courageously.”

Pope Francis said Mary was concerned for the needs of the newlyweds, attentive to others, and not closed in on herself. There are many circumstances today, he continued, when we can see that the “wine” – a sign of “happiness, love, and plenty” – has run out: “How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these are no longer found in their homes?” the Pope asked. “How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?”

Mary responds to the lack of wine by approaching Jesus with confidence, by praying. Pope Francis said, “She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands, to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.” Prayer, he continued, “always lifts us out of our worries and concerns.”

Finally, the Holy Father said, Mary acts. Her words to the wedding attendants – “Do whatever He tells you” – are also “an invitation to us to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served.” Pope Francis said we learn this especially within the family, where we learn to be servants of one another, and where no one is rejected. The family “constitutes the best social capital” and “cannot be replaced by other institutions.” Pope Francis strongly urged people to defend the family, saying it must be “helped and strengthened.”

The family, he said, is also “a small Church, a ‘domestic Church’ which, along with life, also mediates God’s tenderness and mercy.” Although our families are sometimes not what we expect them to be, are not the ‘ideal’ we picture for ourselves, nonetheless, every day within the family “miracles are performed” with the little we have. “In our own families and in the greater family to which we all belong, nothing is thrown away, nothing is useless.” Pope Francis asked for prayers for the Synod on the Family, “so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous, or threatening, and turn it… into a miracle.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily by pointing to the fact that, at the wedding of Cana, the best was yet to come: “for families, the richest, the deepest, and most beautiful things are yet to come.” God, he said, “always seek out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine, those who drink only of discouragement.  Jesus feels their weakness, in order to pour out the best wines for those who, for whatever reason, feel that all their jars have been broken.”

Ends 

17 May 2015 Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love 

World Communications Day is celebrated on Sunday 17 May 2015 – the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Sunday before Pentecost. The World Day for Social Communications was the only worldwide celebration called for by the Second Vatican Council (Inter Mirifica, 1963). Welcoming this year’s World Communications Day message from Pope Francis, Archbishop Eamon Martin said:

“Pope Francis expresses a clear and fundamental message for the benefit of the whole human family and it relates to our earliest shared experience and common bond. The Holy Father tells us that “it is in the context of the family that we first learn how to communicate.” His message is offered to us as we prepare for the Synod of the Family which will take place in the Vatican, during October, guided by the theme The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World. I urge everyone with a love of family to reflect upon today’s challenging message.”

Some of the key points from this year’s World Communications Day message from Pope Francis are:

  • In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one other yet are so important to each other.
  • More than anywhere else, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others. A perfect family does not exist. We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively. The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness.
  • When it comes to the challenges of communication, families who have children with one or more disabilities have much to teach us. A motor, sensory or mental limitation can be a reason for closing in on ourselves, but it can also become, thanks to the love of parents, siblings, and friends, an incentive to openness, sharing and ready communication with all. It can also help schools, parishes and associations to become more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
  • In situations apparently dominated by hatred and violence, where families are separated by stone walls or the no less impenetrable walls of prejudice and resentment, where there seem to be good reasons for saying ‘enough is enough’, it is only by blessing rather than cursing, by visiting rather than repelling, and by accepting rather than fighting, that we can break the spiral of evil, show that goodness is always possible, and educate our children to fellowship.
  • Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families. The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that ‘silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist’. The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters.
  • The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.
  • The family is a community which provides help, which celebrates life and is fruitful. Once we realise this, we will once more be able to see how the family continues to be a rich human resource, as opposed to a problem or an institution in crisis. At times the media can tend to present the family as a kind of abstract model which has to be accepted or rejected, defended or attacked, rather than as a living reality. Or else a grounds for ideological clashes rather than as a setting where we can all learn what it means to communicate in a love received and returned. Relating our experiences means realising that our lives are bound together as a single reality, that our voices are many, and that each is unique.
  • Families should be seen as a resource rather than as a problem for society. Families at their best actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children. We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live.

Click here to read the full text of this year’s World Communications Day Message from Pope Francis.

6 May 2015 General audience: catechesis on the family

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Continuing our catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the beauty of Christian marriage, that sacrament which builds up the community of the Church and society. Marriage has been inscribed in creation’s design by God, and, by his grace, countless Christian men and women have lived married life fully. Marriage is an act of faith in God’s plan for humanity and an act of selfless love. Saint Paul tells us that married love is an image of the love between Christ and his Church; a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, by giving himself completely for her. When a man and a woman marry in the Lord, they participate in the missionary life of the Church, by living not only for themselves or their own family, but for all people. Therefore the life of the Church is enriched through every marriage which shows forth this beauty, and is impoverished when marriage is disfigured in any way. A couple which faithfully and courageously lives the grace of this sacrament assists the Church in offering the gifts of faith, hope and love to all people, and helps others to experience these gifts in their married lives and their families. May married couples live this mystery ever more fully, trusting in God’s tenderness and the Church’s maternal care.

29 April 2015 General audience: the dignity of marriage

Following last Wednesday’s catechesis on God’s original plan for man and woman as a couple, the Pope spoke at today’s general audience about marriage, recalling that Jesus’ first miracle took place during the wedding at Cana, when He transformed water into wine and thus ensured that the celebrations could take place. “This fact reminds us of Genesis, when God completed His creation with his masterpiece: man and woman”, he said. “And Jesus began His miracles with this masterpiece, in marriage. … Thus Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and the woman who love each other. … Since that time, many things have changed but that ‘sign’ of Christ contains a message that remains valid”.

“Nowadays it does not seem easy to describe marriage as a celebration that is renewed over time, in the different seasons in the entire life of spouses. It is a fact that fewer people marry. Instead, in many countries the number of separations is increasing, while the number of children is in decline. The difficulty of staying together – both as a couple and as a family – leads to bonds being broken with increasing frequency and rapidity. … In effect, many young people are led to give up the plan of an irrevocable bond and a lasting family. There is a kind of culture of the provisional: everything is temporary, and it seems that nothing is permanent”.

For this reason, the Pope continued, one of the questions we must face nowadays is why young people do not choose to get married, and seem to have little confidence in marriage and in the family. “The difficulties are not only of an economic nature, although these are very important”, he observed. “Many people believe that the change that has taken place in recent decades was set in motion by the emancipation of women. But this argument is not valid either. It is an insult, a form of misogyny that seeks to subjugate women. If men behave in this way, we are like Adam, when God asked him who had eaten the fruit of the tree, and he said that the woman gave it to him”.

“In reality, almost all men and women would prefer emotional security in the form of a solid marriage and a happy family … but, for fear of failure, many do not even want to think about it. … Perhaps it is precisely that fear of failure that is the greatest obstacle to receiving the word of Christ, Who promises His grace to the matrimonial union and to the family”. However, “marriage consecrated by God preserves that bond between man and woman that God has blessed ever since the creation of the world; and it is a source of peace and good for all married and family life. For example, in the early times of Christianity, this great dignity of the bond between man and woman defeated an abuse considered to be entirely normal in those times, that is, the right of husbands to repudiate their wives, even for the most specious and humiliating reasons. The Gospel, the Gospel that announces this sacrament, ended this culture of habitual repudiation”.

“The Christian seed of radical equality between spouses must bear new fruit today”, emphasised the Holy Father. “The witness of the social dignity of marriage will become persuasive, the witness of reciprocity between husband and wife, of complementarity. .. And as Christians we must become more demanding in this respect. For example, in decisively supporting equal pay for equal work: inequality is a scandal. Why is it taken for granted that women should earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. At the same time, the maternity of women and the paternity of men should be recognised as a richness that remains valid, especially for the benefit of children. Equally, the virtue of hospitality in Christian families today retains a crucial importance, especially in situations of poverty, degradation and domestic violence”.

“Do not be afraid of inviting Jesus to the wedding celebrations! And also His Mother Mary!” exclaimed Pope Francis. “Christians, when they marry ‘in the Lord’, are transformed into an effective sign of God’s love. Christians do not marry only for themselves: they marry in the Lord in favour of all the community, of society as a whole”.

22 April 2015 General audience: man and woman, complementary and of the same divine substance

Pope Francis dedicated his catechesis at today’s Wednesday general audience to the second chapter of Genesis, in which we read that God created man as the culmination of all Creation and placed him in a beautiful garden so that he could cultivate it. “The Holy Spirit, who inspires all the Bible, suggests for a moment the image of man alone, without woman”, said the Pontiff. “And it suggests the thought of God, almost the sentiments of God as He watches him, as He observes Adam alone in the garden: he is free, he is the master, but … he is alone. And God sees that this is not good; it is a lack of communion, a lack of fullness. ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’”.

When after presenting all the other creatures, God finally presents woman to Adam, “the man joyfully recognises that creature, and only her, to be part of him: ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’. Finally there is reflection, reciprocity. The woman is not a replica of man; she comes directly from God’s gesture of creation. Indeed, the image of the ‘rib’ does not imply inferiority or subordination, but on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary. And the fact that, again in the parable, God forms woman while man is sleeping, underlines that she is in no way a creation of man, but of God”.

God’s trust in man and woman, to whom He entrusts the earth, is generous, direct and full. “He trusts them. But here there is the evil one who introduces suspicion, incredulity and distrust into their minds. And finally, they arrive at the point of disobeying the commandment that protects them. They give in to the delirium of omnipotence that contaminates everything and destroys harmony”.

“Sin generates diffidence and division between man and woman. Their relationship is undermined by a thousand forms of abuse and subjection, of deceptive seduction and humiliating arrogance, including the most tragic and violent. History bears their traces. Let us think, for instance, of the negative excesses of patriarchal culture. Think of the exploitation and commodification of the female body in the media in contemporary culture. But let us also think of the recent epidemic of distrust, scepticism and even hostility that is spreading in our culture – starting in particular from a comprehensible diffidence on the part of women – with regard to the alliance between man and woman that is able, at the same time, to refine the intimacy of communion and safeguard the dignity of difference”.

“If we do not find a wave of sympathy for this alliance, able to protect new generations from distrust and indifference, the children who come into the world will be increasingly rooted in it”, warned the bishop of Rome. “The social devaluation of the stable and generative alliance of man and woman is certainly a loss for all. We must restore honour to marriage and the family”.

“The stewardship of this alliance of man and woman, even if they are sinners and wounded, confused and humiliated, distrustful and uncertain, is therefore for us as believers a demanding and exciting vocation. The account of creation and sin, at the end, offers us a beautiful image: ‘And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them’. It is an image of tenderness towards the couple, sinners as they were, that leaves us speechless. It is an image of the paternal protection of the human couple. God Himself cares for and protects His finest creation”, concluded the Pope.

15 April 2015 General audience: the complementarity between man and woman

Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by dedicating this morning’s general audience to the difference and complementarity between man and woman, recalling first of all that the Book of Genesis insists that both are the image and semblance of God. “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between them is not a question of contrast or subordination, but instead of communion and generation, always in the image and semblance of God”.

“Experience teaches us that for the human being to know him- or herself well and to grow harmoniously, there is a need for reciprocity between man and woman”, said the Pope to the thirty thousand faithful present in St. Peter’s Square. “When this does not happen, we see the consequences. We are made to listen to each other and to help each other. We can say that, without mutual enrichment in this relationship – in terms of thought and action, in personal relationships and in work, and also in faith – the two cannot even fully understand what it means to be a man and a woman”.

“Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much scepticism. I wonder, for example, if so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, that aims to cancel out sexual difference as it is no longer able to face it. Yes, we run the risk of taking step backwards. Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God’s grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union. The marriage and family bond is a serious matter for all, not only for believers. I would like to encourage intellectuals not to ignore this theme, as if it were secondary to our efforts to promote a freer and more just society”.

“God has entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman; its failure makes our emotional life arid and obscures the heaven of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we can see them. I would like to indicate due points, among many, that I believe must concern us with greater urgency”.

“Undoubtedly we must do far more in favour of women, if we want to strengthen to the reciprocity between men and women. Indeed, it is necessary for a woman not only to be listened to, but also for her voice to carry real weight, recognised authority, in society and in the Church. The way in which Jesus Himself regarded women, in a context that was far less favourable than our own, casts a powerful light illuminating a road that takes us far, on which we have travelled only a short distance. It is a road we must travel with more creativity and boldness”.

He added, “a second point relates to the theme of man and woman created in God’s image. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, that is so harmful to us, that causes us to ail with resignation to incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis in the alliance between man and woman. In effect, the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco of earthly paradise and original sin, tells us precisely that communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple, and the loss of trust in the heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman”.

“This leads to the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and above all of Christian families, to rediscover the beauty of the Creator’s plan that inscribes the image of God also in the alliance between man and woman. The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well. And if men and women seek this together between them and with God, without doubt they will find it. Jesus explicitly encourages us to bear witness to this beauty, which is the image of God”, concluded the Pontiff.