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General Audience: Pope Francis speaks about family spirit

General Audience: Pope Francis speaks about family spirit

“Family spirit” is like “a
constitutional charter for the Church”. Indeed, “this is how Christianity must
appear, and this is how it must be”. The
Pope stated this in the catechesis given during the General Audience on
Wednesday, 7 October, in St Peter’s Square. The following is a translation of
the Holy Father’s address, which was given in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

Just a few days ago the Synod of Bishops
opened on the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and
in the contemporary world”. The family that walks in the way of the Lord is
fundamental to the witness of God’s love and therefore deserves all the
dedication the Church is capable of. The Synod is called to interpret, for
today, this concern and this attention of the Church. Let us accompany the
entire path of the Synod first of all with our prayer and our interest. In this
period the catecheses reflection will draw inspiration from certain aspects of
the relationship — which we might well
call indissoluble! — between the Church and the family, whose horizon is open
to the good of the entire Christian community.

attentive look at the everyday life of today’s men and women immediately shows
the omnipresent need for a healthy injection of “family spirit”. Indeed, the
form of the relationship — civil, economic, juridical, professional, civic —
seems quite rational, formal, organized, but also very “dehydrated”, arid,
anonymous. At times it becomes unbearable. While seeking to be inclusive in its
forms, in reality it abandons more and more people to loneliness and discards

is why, for the whole of society, the family opens a much more human prospect: it opens its sons
and daughters’ eyes — and not only sight but also all the other senses — to
life, representing a vision of the human relationship built on the free
covenant of love. The family posits the need for the bonds of loyalty, sincerity,
trust, cooperation, respect. It
encourages its members to plan an inhabitable world and belief in trusting
relationships, even in difficult conditions; it teaches them to honour one’s
word, to respect each individual, to share within one’s personal limitations
and those of others. We are all aware of the irreplaceable family attention for
the littlest, most vulnerable, most wounded, and even the most debilitated
members, in living their lives. In society, those who practice these attitudes
have assimilated them from the family spirit, certainly not through competition
and the desire for self-fulfillment.

although knowing all this, the family is not accorded due importance — or
recognition, or support — in the political and economic organization of
contemporary society. Furthermore, I would like to say: not only does the
family not receive adequate recognition, but it no longer engenders learning!
At times it might be said that, with all its science, its technology, modern
society is no longer able to translate this knowledge into better forms of
civil coexistence. Not only is the organization of ordinary life increasingly
thwarted by a bureaucracy completely irrelevant to fundamental human bonds but,
even social and political customs often show signs of degradation —
aggressiveness, vulgarity, contempt —
which are well below the threshold of even a minimal family education. In such
circumstances, the opposite extremes of this abasement of relationships —
namely technocratic obtuseness and amoral familism — join and incite each other. This is a paradox.

Church identifies today, at this exact point, the historical meaning of her
mission with regard to the family and to the authentic family spirit: beginning
from a careful review of life, which examines itself. One could say that the
“family spirit” is a constitutional charter for the Church: this is how
Christianity must appear, and this is how it
must be. It is written in bold characters: “you who were far off” — St
Paul says — […] are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow
citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:17, 19).
The Church is and must be the family of God.

when he called Peter to follow him, told him that he would make him a “fisher
of men”; and for this reason a new type of net is needed. We should say that
today families are one of the most important nets for the mission of Peter and
of the Church. This is not a net that takes one prisoner! On the contrary, it
frees people from the cruel waters of abandonment and indifference, which drown
many human beings in the sea of loneliness and indifference. Families know well
the feeling of dignity conferred by being sons and daughters and not slaves,
nor strangers, not just a number on an identity card.

here, from the family, Jesus resumes his passage among human beings to persuade
them that God has not forgotten them. From here Peter draws the strength for
his ministry. From here the Church, obeying the Teacher’s word, puts out to
fish in the deep waters, certain that, if she does so, the catch will be
miraculous. May the enthusiasm of the Synod Fathers, enlivened by the Holy
Spirit, foster the impetus of a Church that abandons the old nets and puts out
again to fish, trusting in the word of her Lord. Let us pray earnestly for this! Christ, after all, promised and
encourages us: even if bad fathers do not deny their hungry children bread, how
much more will God give the Spirit to those who — imperfect as they are — ask
him with fervent persistence (cf. Lk

the catechesis, the Holy Father greeted various groups in the Square:

offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and
visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland,
Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, Norway, Nigeria,
Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. I ask you to continue to pray for the Synod
on the Family, and to recommit your families to Christ. May you always be witnesses to his mercy and
love in the world. God bless you all!

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