“Family and future of Europa” is the theme of the plenary assembly underway at the Council of European Episcopal Conferences. This morning Pope Francis received 70 of its members, to whom he delivered an off-the-cuff address. He subsequently handed them a written discourse underlining how, as pastors close to their flock, they well know the complexity of the panorama and the challenges the mission of the Church faces in Europe.
“We are called to be an ‘outbound’ Church, in movement from the centre towards the peripheries to reach out to all, without fear, without distrust, and with apostolic courage”, says the document.
Addressing the theme of the plenary session, the Holy Father writes that it constitutes an important occasion for joint reflection on how to exalt the family as a valuable resource for pastoral renewal, emphasising the need for Pastors and families to work together, with a spirit of humility and sincere dialogue, so that parish communities become “families of families”.
In this respect, he observes that “there is no lack of diverse experiences of family pastoral care and political and social commitment to support families, both those that experience an ordinary married life and those afflicted by problems or breakdowns. It is important to gather together these significant experiences present in the different areas of the life of the men and women of our time, in relation to whom we must exercise an appropriate discernment, in order to then ‘put them in the network’, thus involving other diocesan communities”.
Collaboration between Pastors and families also extends to the field of education, “favouring the maturation of a spirit of justice, solidarity, peace, and the courage of one’s own convictions. It involves supporting parents in their responsibility to educate their children, protecting their fundamental right to give their children the education they consider most appropriate. Parents, indeed, remain the first and most important educators of their children, and therefore they have the right to educate them in conformity with their moral and religious convictions. In this regard, it is possible to outline common and coordinated pastoral directives, with the aim of offering valid promotion and support to Catholic schools”.
At the end of the text, Pope Francis encourages those present to continue in their efforts to favour communion between the various Churches in Europe, enabling appropriate collaboration for fruitful evangelisation.
“I also invite you to be a ‘prophetic voice’ within society, especially where the process of secularisation in process throughout the European continent tends to make it increasingly marginal to speak about God”, he concludes.