Bishops must defend the family against societal pressures. Addressing the bishops of Latvia and Estonia in the Vatican this morning, the Pope called on the prelates to promote the family, both “as a gift of God for the fulfillment of man and woman created in His image” and as the “fundamental cell of society.”
Nowadays, Francis lamented, marriage is “often considered a form of affective gratification which can be constituted in any way and modified according to each one’s sensibility.” This reductive concept, he added, “also influences the mentality of Christians, causing facility in taking recourse to divorce or de facto separation.”
“We, Pastors, are called to question ourselves on the preparation to marriage of engaged young people and also on how to assist all those who live these situations, so that the children do not become the first victims and the spouses not feel excluded from God’s mercy and the solicitude of the Church, but that they are helped in their journey of faith and the Christian education of the children,” he said.
The Pope also mentioned how their society, after being oppressed for long by regimes founded on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom, is called today to measure itself against other dangerous deceptions, such as secularism and relativism.
While acknowledging this makes their pastoral action more difficult, he exhorted them to continue tirelessly, without ever losing confidence in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
The Holy Father reminded the bishops that they are not alone in this ‘renewed evangelization,’ but have their priests at their side.
“For the growth and journey of your communities,” the Pope said, “the presence of men and women of consecrated life is all the more precious.” Similarly, he said, the consecrated need to be supported, both spiritually and materially.
The laity’s involvement is “indispensable” for the evangelizing mission, the Pope said. “Thank God, you can count on the commitment of many good Catholics in different ecclesial activities. Your closeness and solicitude will help them to carry forward those responsibilities they are called to assume in the cultural, social, political but also charitable and catechetical field.”
He reminded the bishops that they are entrusted with watching over their laypeople and in helping them “form their conscience and deepen their sense of the Church, in particular knowledge of her Social Doctrine.”
“The lay faithful are the living means between what we Pastors preach and the different social environments,” Francis said. “They must always feel the heart of the Church close!”
Before concluding by imparting his blessing, the Holy Father urged the bishops to sustain ecumenical dialogue in their territories and to give the needed pastoral care to families suffering from the economic and social crises that have assailed their countries.
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