By Vatican News staff reporter
Over the last three days, the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has been taking place in the Vatican under the theme, “The family as relational good: The challenge of love."
Greeting participants on Friday, Pope Francis went to the heart of this theme, focusing his attention on marriage and the challenges facing families today.
Challenges to family life
He noted that “social changes are altering the living conditions of marriage and families all over the world,” and that “prolonged and multiple crises” are putting a strain on family life.
His antidote to this was to “rediscover the value of the family as the source and origin of the social order, as the vital cell of a fraternal society capable of caring for the common home.”
Pope Francis underlined that despite many changes marriage and the family have undergone through the centuries, there are “common and permanent traits” that reveal the greatness and value of both. But, he warned, “if this value is lived out in an individualistic and private way, as is partly the case in the West, the family can become isolated and fragmented in the context of society.”
The Pope went on to say that it was important to understand that “the family is good for society, not insofar as it is a mere aggregation of individuals, but insofar as it is a relationship founded in a 'bond of mutual perfection.’”
The good of the family, Pope Francis said, “consists in sharing relationships of faithful love, trust, cooperation, reciprocity,” which brings about their happiness.
Church and the family
The Pope highlighted that “the Church's social thinking helps to understand this relational love appropriate to the family, as the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has sought to do, following in the wake of the great tradition, but with that tradition, take a step forward.”
He also emphasized that the family “is a place of welcome,” adding that its qualities are “particularly evident in families where there are frail or disabled members. These families, he said, “develop special virtues, which enhance the capacity for love and patient endurance in the face of life's difficulties.”
He also pointed to families “that generate benefits for society as a whole, including adoptive and foster families and noted that the family “is the main antidote to poverty,”
In his address, Pope Francis stressed that family-friendly social, economic and cultural policies need to be promoted in all countries that make it possible to harmonise family life.
Rediscovering the beauty of family life
Turning his attention again to the theme of “rediscovering” the beauty of family life, the Pope said there were certain conditions.
The first, he continued, “is to remove from the mind's eye the "cataracts" of ideologies that prevent us from seeing reality.”
“The second condition is the rediscovery of the correspondence between natural marriage and sacramental marriage.”
Finally, spelling out the third condition, he drew from his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia which recalls the awareness that the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony - which is the ‘social’ sacrament par excellence - heals and elevates the whole of human society and is a leaven of fraternity.”