06/16/2016, 23.19
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Pope: pastoral outreach should “accommodate, accompany, discern and integrate” families

Francis opened the Ecclesial Conference of the Diocese of Rome, dedicated to Amoris laetitia. He called for “Reflecting on the lives of our families, as they are” rather than ideologising, avoiding a “separatist logic”, and giving seniors some room.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke Thursday evening to the participants of the Ecclesial conference of the Diocese of Rome, currently underway in St Joh Lateran. The topic of the meeting is the ‘Joy of Love: the journey of families in Rome in light of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia’.

In his address, the pontiff called for “Reflecting on the lives of our families, as they are” rather than ideologising. He also urged those present to avoid an isolationist, “separatist logic”, which “does not mean not being clear about doctrine’, bur means rather “not falling into judgments and attitudes that do not take into account the complexity of life.” It also means allowing seniors to talk about their dreams.

The Holy Father did not focus on the Exhortation per se, but looked at some key ideas and tensions that emerged during the synodal journey. This, he suggested, can help us understand better the spirit reflected in the Exhortation. He did so through three biblical images that “make contact with the passage of the Spirit in the discernment of the Synodal Fathers”.

The first image, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Ex 3:5), refers to the "respect" one must show one’s family. It is “not a diplomatically or politically correct respect but one that is full of concerns and honest questions designed to take care of the lives that we are called to shepherd. How helpful it is to put a face to issues! It frees us from hurrying up to reach well formulated but lifeless conclusions. It liberates us from abstract talk in order to bring us closer to and help real people. It protects us from ideologising the faith via well structured systems that ignore grace. We can do this only in a climate of faith. It is faith that pushes us towards not stopping from seeking God’s presence in the changes of history."

"Each of us has had a family experience. In some cases, thanksgiving comes out more readily than in others, but we all have had this experience. In such a context, God comes towards us. His Word comes to us not as a sequence of abstract theses, but as a traveling companion who supports us in the midst of pain, who inspires us in celebration, and always shows us the destination of the journey (AL, 22). This reminds us that our families, the families in our parishes, with their faces, their stories, and all their complications 'are not a problem but an opportunity'. These opportunities challenge us to nurture a [certain] missionary creativity capable of embracing every real situation, in our case, that of Roman families. Not only of those who come to or are in the parishes, but also that if the families in our neighborhoods. This meeting challenges us not to give up on anything or anyone, but rather to seek, and to renew the hope of knowing that God continues to operate within our families. He challenges us not to abandon anyone if they are not up to what is asked of them. This means going beyond a statement of principle and delve into the throbbing heart of Rome’s neighbourhoods where, as craftsmen, we can shape God's dream into this reality, which only people of faith can do, i.e. those who do not close the gate onto the action of the Spirit. Reflecting on the lives of our families, as they are, calls upon us to take off our shoes to discover God’s presence."

The second biblical image the Pope mentioned was that of the Pharisee, when he prayed to the Lord and said,O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector” (Lk 18:11). Behind this image lies "one of the temptations to which we are constantly exposed, i.e. a separatist logic. We believe that we gain in identity and in security whenever we differentiate and isolate ourselves from others, especially from those who live different situations. I think it is necessary to take an important step: we cannot analyse, reflect upon and certainly less pray about reality as if we were on different sides or paths, as if we were out of history. We all need to be converted – we all need to place ourselves before the Lord and renew each time the alliance with Him and say with the tax collector: My God, have mercy on me for I am a sinner! With this starting point, we are on the same ‘side’ and we place ourselves before the Lord with an attitude of humility and attention."

"With good reason, looking to our families with the sensitivity with which God looks at them helps us turn our consciousness in the same direction. The emphasis on mercy places us before reality in a realistic way; not with any realism, but God’s realism. Our analyses are important and necessary and will help us come to a healthy realism. But nothing compares to evangelical realism, which does not stop at the description of situations, of problems – and even less sin - but always goes further, and is able to see an opportunity and a chance behind every face, every story, every situation. Evangelical realism goes towards others, with others, and does not turn ideals and obligations into obstacles to meeting others in the situations in which they are. It is not a question of not proposing the Evangelical ideal; on the contrary, it is a call on us to live it in history, with all that entails. This does not mean not being clear about doctrine, but rather not falling into judgments and attitudes that do not take into account the complexity of life. Evangelical realism gets its hands dirty because it knows that 'wheat and discord’ grow together, and the best wheat - in this life - will always be mixed with a little discord. ‘I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street”. The Church ‘must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements. The Gospel itself tells us not to judge or condemn” (cfr Mt 7,1; Lk 6,37, AL, 308).

The third image, “the elderly will have prophetic dreams” (Joel 3:1), suggests that ‘your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.’ With this third image I would like to emphasise the importance the Synod Fathers gave to the value of bearing witness as a way one can follow to find God’s dream and men’s life. In this prophecy we contemplate an unavoidable reality: the possibility that our young people may often find new visions, a new future, a tomorrow, hope, in the dreams of our elders. These two realities go together, need each other, and are connected."

"As a society, we have deprived our seniors of their voice. This is a social sin, of our time. [. . .] We have deprived ourselves of the testimony of married couples who not only have persevered in time, but who have kept in their hearts the gratitude for everything they went through (see AL, 38). The absence of models, witnesses, grandparents, parents capable of narrating dreams prevents the younger generations from 'seeing visions'. It prevents them from making plans, since the future generates insecurity, mistrust, and fear. Only the testimony of our parents, seeing that it was possible to fight for something that was worth fighting for, will help them raise their head. How can we expect young people to meet the challenges of family and marriage as a gift, if they constantly hear from us that it is a burden? If we want 'visions', we should let our grandparents tell us about them, share their dreams, so that we may have prophecies for tomorrow. [. . .] We need grandparents’ dreams. Salvation comes from them as well."

The three images Francis said "remind us that ‘faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into in it’ (AL, 181), not as perfect and immaculate people who think they know everything but as people who have known the love God has for us (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). With such trust, with such certainty, with a lot humility and respect, we want to reach out to all our brothers and sisters to experience the joy of love in the family. With such trust we can stay away from ‘niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune,’ and enter instead ‘into the reality of other people’s lives’ so as “to know the power of tenderness’” (AL, 308). This requires us to develop a family-oriented pastoral outreach that can accommodate, accompany, discern and integrate. Such pastoral outreach can allow and underscore the necessary structure for the life entrusted to us so that it may find the support it needs to develop in accordance with God’s dream."

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