Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Today more than ever, "the family is under attack. Church historians will come to speak about this, but I think the family is becoming bastardized: as if it were simply one more means of association between people. The family is not this, it is not this" said Pope Francis receiving about 7 thousand members of the Schoenstatt movement in audience in the Paul VI Hall, marking the centenary of their foundation. Before the Pope there were songs and testimonies on the charisma of the group.
The dialogue was in an Q&A form in the Pope's native Spanish. The first question from a young family with three young children, was about the outcome of the recent Synod on the Family: "How can we help people who do not feel welcome in our church, and engaged couples seeking to a path to the fullness of life in marriage?".
The Pope responded with a note of sadness: "The question you have asked is very sad and painful. I think the Christian family, marriage have never before been under attack like today. Directly or indirectly. I may be wrong but I think Church historians will speak about this in years to come, but I think the family is being bastardized as if it were simply an association of people to join at will. In that way anything can be called a family". Sadness, said Francis, "also comes from the families suffering and the many marriages that have ended, how much relativism there is in the concept of marriage today. From the sociological point of view, human values, the Christian sacrament ... there's just a crisis of the family. This is because it is being attacked from all sides, and is being injured".
Of course, the Pope resumed, "we could limit ourselves to make a nice speech and some nice sounding statements of principle on this issue. Of course, this should be done. It must be said loudly: 'What you are proposing is not marriage', it must be said clearly. But first and foremost we need a ministry of help which, in this case, must be 'person to person': accompanying, spending some time with those who have problems. The great master of wasting time was Jesus, who wasted time in accompanying and maturing consciences. Accompany means to walk together ".
With regard to the preparation of young people, Francis asked:
"How can you lead engaged couples to marry after only two courses? You can not! It is a
sin of omission on our part, of
the priests. Marriage preparation must start from far off. Many do not know what they are doing when they hey get married, without knowing what it means. The conditions that they promise are important:
they all say 'yes', but do they realize that
this culture of the provisional - not only in the family
but also in the Church - destroys? We need to recuperate many things
that are proper to the family, but we cannot be scandalized
by the crisis".
People who do not get married, he concluded in his response, "who just live together, who choose 'part-time' cohabitation ... Here are the new forms, totally destructive and limiting the greatness of marriage. That's why we have so many separations , divorces ... The key lies in accompanying, not proselytizing which leads nowhere. Only accompanying with great patience".
The second question was on the "missionary role of
Mary" in the new evangelization and the renewal of the Church. The Virgin, Francis replied,
"First of all is our mother.
Mary is 'The' Mother,
who brought Christ and helps us to allow Him be born and grow in us. She is the Mother of the Church, She is motherhood. We have no
right - and if we do so we are wrong
- to think we are orphaned in life. We
have a mother! She is a mother
who not only gives us life, but who educates us in
the faith. It is different to
grow in faith without the help of Mary. It is like growing in faith without the Church. A Church without Mary is an orphanage.
The third couple asked the Pope how to live "a fuller life with Christ." To this question, he chose to answer "from a phrase of Benedict XVI: 'The Church does not grow through proselytism, but attraction. This attraction comes from our witness'. Here's the first tip: witness, this is how to approach others and encourage them to live like us. There is nothing more important. "To be a witness "means to immerge oneself, after making a lifestyle choice. Without witness we can not help anyone. It is clear that we are all weak, we all have our problems, and we are not always good witnesses. But that ability to ask for forgiveness when our witness is not what it should be is also a form of witness".
And then there is the emphasis on mission: "I repeat so many times: A church that is
not outward moving is a wrong Church. It's an elite group, that instead
of going out to look for the
sheep, dedicates itself to beautifying the sheep it already has. But these are not pastors, they are spiritual hairdressers!
A closed community is a sick one".
The diversity and richness of the Church were the theme of the last question: "The world needs witnesses of generosity. How can we best help in the renewal of the Church?". One thinks of a great revolution, Francis replied, "Some think of a revolutionary Pope. But one of the oldest concepts of Catholicism it is the renewal of the Church. The Saints were able to renew their holiness, and so renew the Church . I ask you as a favor, do not be afraid of holiness! This means renewal".
Changes must occur "because life changes. But the renewal of the Curia and ecclesiastical positions is not the renewal I am talking about. What newspapers are talking about is not a renewal, they talk about the wrong things. First, we need to renew ourselves, our heart! This is the real news. The renewal I seek is that of the heart. I am helped in this by the freedom of the Spirit, let him free to lead us to do enormous things. The freedom of the Spirit is not relaxing oneself: it means faithfulness and prayer".
The devil, the Pope concludes, "exists, I say to those who do not believe this, and puts so many obstacles on the road. Lack of communication, the tower of Babel, are examples of this. While the Church builds the Holy Spirit, the devil builds something else. That's where we have to work for a culture of encounter, to help us come into contact with each other as families and as other realities. Take the Book of Genesis, Joseph and his brothers. Just as this story starts with pain it ends in encounter. Read this story: God has chosen, He has promised and has made an alliance with us. The alliance is made up of promises. This creates ecclesial solidarity".