Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family during his weekly General Audience, reflecting on the important role of fathers. The Holy Father was in good spirits as he entered the Paul VI Audience Hall, even taking a moment to pose for a picture with a group of pilgrims.
The Pope began his address by noting that the word father is important for Christians because “it is the name in which Jesus taught us to call God.”
“The meaning of this name has received a new depth just from the way in which Jesus used it to address God and manifest his special relationship with Him,” he said. “The blessed mystery of the intimacy of God, Father, Son and Spirit, revealed by Jesus, is the heart of our Christian faith.”
Reflecting on the symbolic role of the father, the Holy Father lamented the its decreasing role in today’s society. This absence, he explained, is perceived in Western culture as the emancipation from an obstacle to happiness. While there are cases where fathers have been overly authoritative or treat children as servants, the Pope said that the situation can go to the opposite extreme: where the presence of the father is completely absent.
“Even as bishop of Buenos Aires,” the Pope recalled, “I warned of this sense of orphan-hood that children live today. And I regularly asked fathers if they played with their children; if they had the courage to have the love to waste time with their children. The answer wasn’t good, eh! The majority would say: ‘But, I can’t because I have so much work to do…’ And the father was absent from that child that was growing up and didn’t play with him, he didn’t waste time with him.”
The 78 year old Pontiff called on the Christian community to be more attentive to their children, saying that the absence of the father causes gaps and wounds that, over time, can become very serious.
‘Orphaned within the Family’
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis continued to explain detrimental effects that a father’s absence can have on children. Due to this absence, children at times are like “orphans but within the family.” He also warned that because of this, fathers risk having a relationship on the same level of the children instead of a role as “educator”.
“At times, it seems that fathers do not know well which place to occupy within the family and how to educate the children,” he explained. “So, when in doubt they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibilities, perhaps taking refuge in an unlikely relationship ‘on par’ with the children.”
“It is true that you should be a companion for your child but without forgetting that you are the father. If you act as a companion equal to your child, it will not do him well.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis said that while his catechesis may have seemed to have taken a serious or negative tone regarding the role of fathers, it is for good reason.
“I wanted to emphasize this because next Wednesday, I will continue this catechesis by highlighting the beauty of fatherhood,” he said. “For this reason I chose to begin from the darkness to arrive to the light. May the Lord help us to understand well these things.”
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