Ministry to families must meet their real needs, pope says

If people are providing a ministry to families, they must make sure they actually know what the families need, Pope Francis says.

The Catholic Church cannot claim to safeguard marriage and family life if it simply repeats its traditional teaching without supporting, encouraging and caring for real families.

This is especially when families are struggling to live up to that teaching, Francis notes.

“It’s not enough to repeat the value and importance of doctrine if we don’t safeguard the beauty of the family and if we don’t compassionately take care of its fragility and its wounds.”

Francis made the comments on 19 March in a message to a Rome conference marking the fifth anniversary of “Amoris Laetitia,” his 2016 exhortation of marriage and family life. Most participants took part in the conference online.

The conference was sponsored by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, the Diocese of Rome and the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family.

Celebrations of the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” will conclude on 26 June next year at the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

Francis told conference participants that his exhortation was meant to give a starting point for a “journey encouraging a new pastoral approach to the family reality.

“The frankness of the Gospel proclamation and the tenderness of accompaniment,” must go hand in hand in the church’s pastoral approach, he explained.

Francis said the task of the church is to help couples and families understand “the authentic meaning of their union and their love” as a “sign and image of Trinitarian love and the alliance between Christ and his church.”

At the same time, that message of the church “cannot be and must never be given from on high and from outside,” Francis stressed.

The church’s ministry to families can proclaim the truth and assist families only by “immersing itself in real life, knowing up close the daily trials of spouses and parents, their problems and sufferings, all the small and large situations that weigh them down and, sometimes, block their journey.”

The Gospel is more than that, he stressed. It is a way to proclaim to the world the love of God and the beauty of his plan for humanity.

While many modern people believe the importance of the traditional family has diminished, Francis noted the pandemic has shown that for most people, the family is “the most solid reference point, the strongest support system and the irreplaceable basis for the defense of the whole human and social community.”

“Therefore, let us support the family,” he said.

“Let us defend it from that which would compromise its beauty. Let us draw near to this mystery of love with awe, with discretion and with tenderness.”



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