Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Feast of the Holy Family, which falls on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day, provided Pope Francis with an opportunity to remember the hardships of refugee families fleeing wars, but also to stress the value of family as a union of a father and a mother. In addition to refugees, the pope during the Angelus also mentioned next October's Synod, which will be dedicated to the topic of the family. He also recited a prayer, which he meant for everyone in preparation for the synod itself.
Informed by today's Gospel, which tells the story of the Holy Family's flight into Egypt (Matthew, 2:13-15, 19-23 ), Francis said, "Joseph, Mary and Jesus experience the tragic fate of refugees, full of fear, uncertainty, and discomfort (cf Matthew 2,13-15, 19-23 ). Unfortunately, in this day and age, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Nearly every day, television and newspapers provide news about refugees fleeing hunger, war, and other serious dangers - in search of security and a decent life for themselves and their families."
"In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants do not always receive real welcome, or find respect and appreciation for the values they carry. Their legitimate expectations clash with complex situations and problems that at times seem insurmountable. Thus, as we look to the Holy Family of Nazareth when it was forced to seek refuge, let us think about the tragedy of those migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation."
"Let us also think about those who are exiled inside families," he added, "the elderly, for example, who are sometimes treated as a cumbersome presence. Many times I think a sign to know how a family is doing is to see how children and the elderly are treated."
"Jesus wanted to belong to a family that experienced these difficulties," he continued, "because no one is excluded from God's loving closeness. The flight into Egypt because of Herod's threats shows us that God is where man is in danger, where man suffers, where he escapes, where he experiences rejection and neglect. But he is also where man dreams, hopes to return to his homeland in freedom, plans and chooses for his life and dignity and that of his family."
Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff noted, "Today our gaze on the Holy Family is also drawn by the simplicity of life that it led in Nazareth. It is an example that does a lot of good to our families, helps them become more and more a community of love and reconciliation, in which we can experience tenderness, mutual help, and mutual forgiveness."
Speaking off the cuff, he said, "Let us remember the three key words to live well in the family: 'Excuse me, thank you, sorry.' When we do not want to be intrusive in our family, we say 'Excuse me!' When we are not selfish . . . we say 'Thank you!' When we make a mistake, we say 'Sorry!' Therefore, let us say together, 'Excuse me, thank you, sorry.' Which the crowd did.
Lastly, "I would also like to encourage families to become aware of the importance they have in the Church and in society. Preaching the Gospel, in fact, is done first inside the family, and then in the different spheres of everyday life. With fervor, let us invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, and Saint Joseph, her husband. Let us ask them to enlighten, comfort, and guide every family in the world, so that they can fulfill with dignity and serenity the mission God has entrusted them."
After the Angelus prayer, in front of tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis said that "the next Consistory and the next Synod of Bishops will address the topic of the family. The preparatory phase has already been underway for some time. This is why today, the Feast of the Holy Family, I wish to entrust the synodal work to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and pray for the families of the entire world."
He then invited all those present to join him in a prayer he recited:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God's plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.
He then added, "I extend a special greeting to the faithful who are linked up with us from Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation, where the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops went to; from Barcelona's Sagrada Familia Basilica, where the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family went to; and from Loreto's Basilica of the Santa Casa. The same goes for all those gathered in various parts of the world for other celebrations focused on the family, in Madrid for example."
Finally, Francis greeted "all the pilgrims present here, especially families."