A new appeal from the Pope for Ukraine battered by violence and fratricide- The only right word is peace
Pope Francis launched a new appeal
for peace in Ukraine at the General Audience on Wednesday, 4 February, in the
Paul VI Hall. He asked that every effort be made to resume dialogue. In his
Catechesis, the Pope spoke about the role of fatherhood in the family. The
following is a translation of the Pope’s catechesis, which was given in
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
would like to develop the second part of my reflection on the figure of the father in the family.
Last time I spoke about the danger of “absent” fathers, today I would like to
look instead at the positive aspect. Even St Joseph was tempted to leave Mary,
when he discovered that she was pregnant; but the Angel of the Lord intervened
and revealed to him God’s plan and his mission as foster father; and Joseph, a
just man, “took his wife” (Mt 1:24) and became the father of the family of
family needs a father. Today we shall reflect on the value of his role, and I
would like to begin with a few expressions that we find in the Book of
Proverbs, words that a father addresses to his own son, and it goes like this:
“My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right” (Pr
23:15-16). Nothing could better express the pride and emotion a father feels
when he understands that he has transmitted to his child what really matters in
life, that is, a wise heart. This father does not say: “I am proud of you
because you are the same as me, because you repeat the things I say and do”.
No, he does not say anything so simple to him. He says something much more important,
which we can understand in this way: “I will be happy every time I see you act with wisdom, and I will be
moved every time that I hear you speak with rectitude. This is what I wanted to leave to you, that this one
thing become yours: the attitude to feel and act, to speak and judge with
wisdom and rectitude. And that you might be like this, I taught you the things you didn’t know, I
corrected the errors you didn’t see. I made you feel a profound and at the same time discrete
affection, which maybe you did not fully recognize when you were young and
unsure. I gave you a testimony of rigour
and steadfastness that perhaps you didn’t understand, when you would have liked
only complicity and protection. I had
first to test myself in the wisdom of my heart, be vigilant of my
excesses of sentiment and resentment, in order to carry the weight of the
inevitable misunderstandings, to find the right words to make myself
understood.” Now, continues the father, “I see that you strive to be this way
with your own children, and with everyone, and it moves me. I am happy to be
your father”. This is what a wise father, a mature father, says.A father knows all too well what it
costs to hand down this heritage: how close, how gentle and how firm to be. But
what consolation and what recompense he
receives when the children honour this legacy! It is a joy that rewards all the
toil, that overcomes every misunderstanding and heals every wound.
need, then, is precisely this: that a father be present in the family.
That he be close to his wife, to share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And that he be close to his
children as they grow: when they play and when they strive, when they are
carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they
are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they take a
wrong step and when they find their path again; a father who is always present. To say
“present” is not to say “controlling”! Fathers who are too controlling cancel
out their children, they don’t let them develop.
Gospel speaks to us about the exemplarity of the Father who is in Heaven – who
alone, Jesus says, can be truly called the “good Father” (cf. Mk 10:18).
Everyone knows that extraordinary parable of the “prodigal son”, or better yet
of the “merciful father”, which we find
in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 15 (cf. 15:11-32). What dignity and what tenderness there is in
that father’s expectation, who stands at the door of the house waiting for his
son to return! Fathers must be patient. Often there is nothing else to do but
wait; pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy.
father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his
heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak
father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without
humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself. Once I
heard in meeting on marriage a father say: “Sometimes I have to strike the
children lightly… but never in the face so as not to humiliate them”. How
beautiful! He has a sense of dignity. He must punish, but he does is in a just
way, and moves on.
there is someone who can fully explain the prayer of the “Our Father”, taught
by Jesus, that is the one who lives out paternity in the first person. Without
the grace that comes from the Father who is in Heaven, fathers loose courage,
and abandon camp. But children need to find a father waiting for them when they
come home after failing. They will do everything not to admit it, not to show
it, but they need it; and not to find it opens wounds in them that are
difficult to heal.
Church, our mother, is committed to supporting with all our strength the good
and generous presence of fathers in families, for they are the irreplaceable
guardians and mediators of faith in
goodness, of faith in justice and God’s protection, like St Joseph.
Once again my thoughts go to the
beloved people of Ukraine. Unfortunately the situation is deteriorating and the
polarity between the parties is growing worse. Let us pray first and foremost
for the victims, among whom are so many civilians, and for their families, and
let us ask the Lord that this horrible fratricidal violence cease as quickly as possible. I renew the
heartfelt appeal in order that all effort
– on an international level as well – be made for the reopening of dialogue, the only possible
way to restore peace and harmony in that tortured land. Brothers and sisters,
when I hear the words “victory” or “defeat” I feel great sorrow, great sadness
in my heart. They are not just words; the only just word is “peace”. This is
the only just word. I am thinking of you, Ukrainian brothers and sisters ….
Think this is a war among Christians! You all have the same baptism! You are
fighting with Christians. Think about this scandal. And let us all pray, for
prayer is our protest before God in times of war.
I greet the English-speaking
pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from
England, Wales, Finland, Sri Lanka and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke
joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God
bless you all!
I address a special thought to the
young people, the sick, and newlyweds. Tomorrow we
celebrate the memorial of St Agatha, virgin and martyr. May her youthful
presence enable you, dear young people, to
comprehend the value of a life lived for God; may her unshakable faith help you,
dear sick people, to trust in the Lord in moments of discouragement; and may
her strength in martyrdom show you, dear newlyweds, the values that are truly
important for family life.