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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pope calls parish priests to support married couples

At 11:15am today, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience a group of participants taking part in a formation course for priests on the new matrimonial procedures, organized by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota (taking place in Rome at the Chancery Palace from 22-25 February 2017).

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the meeting with participants taking part in
a formation course for priests on new
matrimonial procedures

Dear brothers,

I am pleased to meet you at the end of the course of formation for pastors, organized by the Roman Rota, on the new matrimonial procedures.  I thank the Dean and the Pro-Dean for their commitment to this course of formation.  As they were discussed and proposed during the Synod of Bishops on the them of Marriage and family, they have been implemented and integrated in an organic way in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and translated into appropriate juridical norms contained in two specific provisions: the motu proprio Mitis Iudex and the motu proprio Misericors Jesus.  It is a good thing that you pastors, through these initiatives of study, can deepen this material, for you are the ones above all who will concretely apply these norms in your daily contact with families.

In the majority of cases, you are the first to enter into conversation with young people who wish to form a new family and to be joined in the Sacrament of matrimony.  And yet, you encounter for the most part, couples who, because of serious problems in their relationships, find themselves in crisis and in need of reinvigorating their faith and rediscovering the grace of the Sacrament; and in certain cases asking for assistance to begin a nullity process.  No one knows this better than you who are in daily contact with the reality of the social fabric of the territory, directly experiencing its varied complexity: marriages celebrated in Christ, domestic partnerships, civil unions, families and youth who are happy and unhappy.  For every person and in every case, you are called to be companions on the journey, providing your witness and your support.

First is your concern to bear witness to the grace of the Sacrament of matrimony and the primordial good of the family, a vital part of the Church and of society, through the proclamation that a marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church.  This witness is realized concretely when you prepare engaged couples for marriage, making them aware of the profound significance of the step they are about to take, and when you accompany young couples with solicitude, helping them to live in the light and in the midst of shadows, in moments of joy and in moments of trial, the divine strength and the beauty of their marriage.  But I wonder how many of these young people who participate in pre-marital courses understand what marriage means, the sign of a union between Christ and the Church.  Yes, yes - they say yes, but do they truly understand?  Do they have faith in marriage?  I am convinced that we need a true catecheumenate for the Sacrament of matrimony, and that we should not be content to provide preparation for marriage based only on two or three meetings.

Be sure to always remember that in the Sacrament of matrimony, God - so to speak - is reflected in Christian spouses, impressing upon them his image and the indelible character of his love.  In fact, marriage is an icon of God, created for us by Him who is the perfect union of three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The love of God - one and triune - is the love between Christ and the Church, his bride, is the focus of matrimonial catechesis and evangelization: through personal or communal encounters, anticipated or spontaneous, never grow tired of demonstrating to others, especially spouses, this great mystery (cf Eph 5:32).

While you offer this witness, it is also your responsibility to support those who have realized that their union is not a true sacramental marriage and who wish to get out of such situations.  In this delicate but necessary work that you are doing, your brothers will recognize you not as experts of bureaucratic work or of juridical norms, but as brothers who adopt an attitude of listening and understanding.

At the same time, draw close to you, with their own gospel style, through encounter with and the welcome of those young people who prefer to live together without being married.  On the spiritual and moral levels, they are among the poorest and the smallest, toward whom the Church, following the footsteps of her Master and Lord, wishes to be a mother who does not abandon but is always close to them and caring for them.  These people too are loved by the heart of Christ.  Strive to always maintain a look of tenderness and compassion toward them.  This care for the forgotten ones, precisely because it emanates from the gospel, is an essential part of your work of promoting and defending the Sacrament of matrimony.  In fact, the parish is the place par excellence of the salus animarum.  This is what Blessed Paul VI taught: The parish ... is the presence of Christ in the fullness of his saving work ... the house of the gospel, the house of truth, the school of Our Lord (Speech in the parish of the Great Mother of God in rome, 8 March 1964).

Dear brothers, speaking recently to the Roman Rota, I recommended that they implement a true catechumenate of future married couples, including all the steps of the sacramental journey: the time of preparing for marriage, its celebration and the years that immediately follow the celebration of a wedding.  To you pastors, indispensable collaborators with your Bishop, is confided the principal task of the catechumenate.  I encourage you to establish it no matter what difficulties you may encounter.  And I believe that the greatest difficulty will be to think of or to live marriage as a social fact - we must make this a social fact - and not like a true sacrament, that requires long, long preparation.

I thank you for your commitment to proclaiming the gospel of the family.  May the Holy Spirit help you to be ministers of peace and of consolation among the holy and faithful people of God, especially the most fragile of persons, those most in need of your pastoral attention.  While I ask you to pray for me, with all my heart I bless each one of you and your parish communities.  Thank you.
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