The topic is not "only that of the 'remoteness' of many from the ideal and the practice of the Christian truth about marriage and the family; even more decisive is the subject of the Church's 'closeness,' her nearness to new generations of spouses, so that the blessing of their union increasingly convinces and accompanies them, and closeness to situations of human weakness, so that grace can rescue them, give them new courage, and heal them." Pope Francis said this yesterday in the Vatican, in his address to the academic community of the Pontifical "John Paul II" Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, at the inauguration of the new academic year.
"In today's circumstances—said the Pope—the marital and family bonds are tested in many ways" by the emergence of a culture that exalts narcissistic individualism, a conception of freedom disengaged from responsibility for the other, growing indifference to the common good, the imposition of ideologies that directly attack the family project, and increasing poverty that threatens the future of so many families, are so many reasons for the crisis in the contemporary family. Then, there are the open questions of the development of new technologies that make practices, which are sometimes in conflict with the real dignity of human life, possible."
Francis began by pointing out that "the recognition of the dignity of man and woman implies a just appreciation of their mutual relationship. How can we—asked the Pope—know in depth the concrete humanity of which we are made without learning it through this difference? It is impossible to deny the contribution of modern culture to the rediscovery of the dignity of the sexual difference. Therefore, it is also very disconcerting to see that now this culture seems to be blocked by a tendency to cancel the difference instead of resolving the problems that mortify it."
The family, which is "the irreplaceable womb of the initiation of the creaturely alliance of man and woman," is founded on the "correlation between family figures and the social forms of this alliance—in religion and in ethics, in work, in the economy, and in politics, in the care of life and in the relationship between the generations—is now globally evident." So much so, continued Francis, that "when things go well between man and woman, the world and history also go well. On the contrary, the world becomes inhospitable and history comes to a halt."
The Pope explained that "It is necessary to apply oneself with greater enthusiasm to rescuing—I would almost say to rehabilitating—this extraordinary 'invention' of divine creation. This rescue must be taken seriously, in the doctrinal sense as well as in the practical, pastoral and testimonial sense. The dynamics of the relationship between God, man and woman, and their children, is the golden key to understanding both the world and history, with all that they contain. And, finally, to understand something of the depth found in the love of God Himself. Can we succeed in thinking the 'greatness' of this revelation? Are we convinced of the power of life that this plan of God bears in the love of the world? Are we able to pull the new generations away from resignation and win them back to this plan's audacity?"
The new horizon of this commitment, according to Francis, "certainly sees your Institute convoked, in a very special way, to support the necessary opening of the intelligence of the faith, in the service of the pastoral solicitude of Peter's Successor. The fruitfulness of this task of continued reflection and study, in favor of the whole Church, is entrusted to the impetus of your mind and your heart," he said, since "theology and pastoral ministry go together. A theological doctrine that does not let itself be guided and molded by the evangelizing end and by the pastoral care of the Church is even more unthinkable than a pastoral of the Church unable to make the revelation and her tradition into a treasure in view of a better understanding and transmission of the faith."