The Catholic Church cannot claim to safeguard marriage and family life if it simply repeats its traditional teaching without supporting, encouraging and caring for real families, especially when they struggle to live up to that teaching, Pope Francis said.
“It’s not enough to repeat the value and importance of doctrine if we don’t safeguard the beauty of the family and if we don’t compassionately take care of its fragility and its wounds,” the pope said March 19 in a message to a Rome conference marking the fifth anniversary of “Amoris Laetitia,” (The Joy of Love) his 2016 exhortation of marriage and family life.
The conference, sponsored by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, the Diocese of Rome and the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family, kicked off celebrations of the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” which will conclude June 26, 2022, at the World Meeting of Families in Rome.
Pope Francis told conference participants, most of whom were watching online, that his exhortation was meant to give a starting point for a “journey encouraging a new pastoral approach to the family reality.”
“The frankness of the Gospel proclamation and the tenderness of accompaniment,” he said, must go hand in hand in the Church’s pastoral approach.
The task of the Church, the pope said, is to help couples and families understand “the authentic meaning of their union and their love” as a “sign and image of Trinitarian love and the alliance between Christ and His Church.”
The Church’s message, he said, “is a demanding word that aims to free human relationships from the slaveries that often disfigure them and render them instable: the dictatorship of emotions; the exaltation of the provisional, which discourages lifelong commitments; the predominance of individualism; (and) fear of the future.”
Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the dicastery, said at the news conference that their office would be providing some resources on the website, www.laityfamilylife.va, for parishes and dioceses throughout the year, and called for ongoing exchanges and ideas from everyone.
They will also release a new video each month, featuring Pope Francis and different families, talking about ways “Amoris Laetitia” can guide people’s lives, and they will publish short pastoral guides for groups or individuals for reflection, she said.