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Pope Francis: Priests, bishops, and married couples ‘co-responsible’ for the family

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Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, June 9, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday urged priests, bishops, and married couples to work in cooperation to strengthen the life of the Church through the goods of marriage and family.

In a video message to an online forum taking place this week, the pope said that “the family is ‘a domestic Church,’ the place in which the sacramental presence of Christ acts between spouses and between parents and children.”

“In this sense,” he continued, “‘the experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church,’ constantly enriched by the life of all the domestic Churches. Therefore, by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, every family becomes to full effect a good for the Church.”

“Co-responsibility for the mission therefore calls upon married couples and ordained ministers, especially bishops, to cooperate in a fruitful manner in the care and custody of the domestic Churches,” Pope Francis said.

He urged pastors to “be enlightened by the Spirit” and to call on prepared married couples for help in proclaiming the truth about the family.

“If we give them space, they can make their contribution to the construction of the ecclesial fabric,” he said.

The pope’s message was issued June 9, the first day of a four-day online meeting hosted by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. The forum is centered on the question: “Where do we stand with the application of Amoris laetitia?”

Amoris laetitia is Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, written following the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family.

The closed-door meeting is being attended by more than 300 delegates of the family offices of over 60 bishops’ conferences and 30 international movements.

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, a friend and known ghostwriter of Pope Francis, will give a keynote address on “accompanying, discerning, and integrating fragility,” on the last day of the forum.

The forum has been organized as part of the ongoing Amoris Laetitia Family Year.

In his message, Francis also emphasized the important witness that faithful married men and women give.

“How important it is for young people to see with their own eyes the love of Christ alive and present in the love of spouses, who testify with their real lives that love for ever is possible!” he said.

He added that “just as the spouses Aquila and Priscilla were valuable collaborators of St. Paul in his mission, so too today many married couples, and even entire families with children, can become valid witnesses to accompany other families, create community, and sow seeds of communion among the peoples receiving the first evangelization, contributing in a decisive way to the proclamation of the kerygma.”

Today the family is more than ever “a sign of the times,” the pope said, and the Church needs to actively listen and involve them in pastoral care.

He underlined that all the baptized, not just pastors, are called to evangelize the world: “To bring God’s love to families and young people, who will build the families of tomorrow, we need the help of the families themselves, their concrete experience of life and communion.”

“We need spouses alongside the pastors, to walk with other families, to help those who are weaker, to announce that, even in difficulties, Christ is present in the Sacrament of Marriage to give tenderness, patience, and hope to all, in every situation of life.”

He explained that just as the complementarity of man and woman “combine to make up the tapestry of the family, so too the sacraments of Holy Orders and marriage are both indispensable to building up the Church as a ‘family of families.’”.

“In this way, we will be able to have a pastoral care of families in which one breathes fully the spirit of ecclesial communion.”

Pope Francis noted that the synods on the family “helped the Church to bring to light many concrete challenges that families experience: ideological pressures that hinder educational processes, relational problems, material and spiritual poverty and, at the root, a great deal of loneliness due to the difficulty of perceiving God in one’s own life.”

“I invite you, therefore, to take a fresh look at Amoris laetitia in order to identify, among the pastoral priorities indicated therein, those that best correspond to the concrete needs of each local Church and to pursue them with creativity and missionary zeal,” he said.


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