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Christian view of family is key to understanding the world, Pope says in address to John Paul II Institute

October 27, 2016

“The dynamics of the relationship between God, man and woman, and their children, are the golden keys to understanding the world and history, with all they contain, and finally to understand something profound that is found in the love of God Himself,” Pope Francis said in an October 27 address to the Pontifical St. John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

“The Church sees in the family the icon of God’s alliance with the entire human family,” the Pope said. He noted with concern that the Christian understanding of marriage and family has been endangered by an attitude that causes “‘I’ always to prevail over ‘we,’ the individual over society.” Outlining the threats to family life, Pope said:

At the current moment, conjugal and family bonds are challenged in many ways. The affirmation of a culture that exalts narcissistic individualism, a concept of freedom detached from responsibility for the other, the growth of indifference with regard to the common good, the imposition of ideologies that directly attack the family project, and the growth of the poverty that threatens the future of many families, are all reasons for the crisis of the contemporary family.

“It is necessary,” said Pope Francis, “to apply ourselves with greater enthusiasm to greater enthusiasm to the redemption-– I would say almost the rehabilitation-– of this extraordinary ‘invention’ of divine creation. This redemption must be taken seriously, in both a doctrinal and a practical sense.”

Pope Francis had announced early this month that he would deliver the address opening the academic year for the John Paul II Institute, replacing Cardinal Robert Sarah, who had originally been scheduled to speak. The Pope’s direct involvement appears to underline his intention of changing the direction of the Institute—an intention that he had signaled by replacing the president and chancellor with prelates more closely aligned with his own thinking.

While he paid tribute to St. John Paul II for his work on marriage and family, Pope Francis indicated that he hopes for new directions in Church teaching. He referred to his own apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, saying that “at times we have proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.”

The Pope said that the Synod of Bishops, in its two meetings on the family, had “unanimously expressed the need to widen the Church’s understanding and care for this mystery of human love in which the path is opened for God’s love for all.” He remarked: “The indissoluble bond of the Church with her children is the most transparent sign of the faithful and merciful love of God.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 28, 2016 10:18 AM ET USA

    The bond of valid matrimony is just as indissoluble by human means as the "bond of the Church with her children." This should be remembered if the word "adultery" is to have moral meaning. Why don't the Pope and bishops just offer continual "mea culpas" for failing in their office of teaching, leading, and ministering for the last 50 years? Discipline yourselves, then figure out ways to turn the obstinate heart to one that daily asks for the grace to live a chaste life within an irregular union.