Pope Francis has called for the spiritual rebirth of Rome and has appealed to families to contribute to this. The Holy Father made the exhortation Sunday evening when speaking to some 25,000 faithful from the Diocese of Rome for the opening of the annual Ecclesial Convention, which this year is dedicated to the family.
During his remarks, the Pope called for a “spiritual rebirth” for the capital of Italy. “Our city must be reborn, morally and spiritually, as it seems as if everything is the same, that everything is relative; that the Gospel is a beautiful story about good things, pleasant to read, but which remains simply an idea,” the Bishop of Rome said.
Francis stressed how a proper understanding of the family is a critical component of this rebirth and can be realized by looking at three elements: mission, vocation, and communion.
“The first word is mission. St. Paul wrote that all paternity derives from God, and we can also add all maternity. We are all sons and daughters, but becoming a father or mother is a calling from God! It is a calling from God: it is a vocation. God is eternal love, which gives ceaselessly and calls us to existence.”
When reflecting on communion, the Pope recalled how the Bible reminds faithful how being parents is based on the diversity of being male and female.
“This is the ‘first’ and most fundamental difference, constitutive of the human being. It is a wealth. Differences are wealth. … We men learn to recognize, through the female figures we encounter in life, the extraordinary beauty that women bear. And women follow a similar path, learning from male figures that the man is different and has his own way of feeling, understanding and living.”
This communion in difference, the Jesuit Pope underscored, is also very important in the education of children.
Speaking to parents present, the Pope reminded them how the Lord has chosen them to love each other and transmit life. “Your children, dear parents, need to discover, looking at your life, that loving each other is good,” he said. “Never forget that your children are always watching you. Children, before living in a house made of bricks, inhabit another house, even more essential: they live in the mutual love of their parents.”
Holy Spirit’s collaborators
The Pope also spoke on the beauty and mission the gift of marriage has: “You are collaborators of the Holy Spirit, Who whispers the words of Jesus! Be this way for your children. Be missionaries of your children! They will learn from your words and your life that to follow the Lord brings enthusiasm, the wish to give oneself to others, always to give hope, even when faced with difficulties and pain, because we are never alone, but always with the Lord and with our brothers.”
Francis exhorted Roman parents to protect their children from ideological attacks against the institution of the family and all that is sacred. Such attacks, he stressed, are “hurtful” and “destroy society, the nation, [and] families.”
“It is very painful when a family lives in a state of tension that cannot be resolved, when there is a fracture that cannot be healed,” he said.
Turning to couples who separate, the Pontiff told them to always remember their duties as parents. “Do not speak ill of each other,” the Argentine Pope said, noting this sets a poor example for the children.
He called on separated parents to always seek understanding, collaboration, and harmony for the good and happiness of their children.
Wisdom of the people
The Holy Father also underscored how all grandparents must be loved and respected. Recalling that about a quarter of Rome’s population is elderly, the 78-year-old Pontiff stressed to families that nursing or retirement homes should only be a last resort.
“I would not like to finish without offering a word to grandparents, who are the wisdom of the people, who are the memory of the people, who are the wisdom of the family,” Pope Francis said, recalling, “the grandparents who saved the faith in many countries where it was forbidden to practice religion and took children to be secretly baptized; and the grandparents who taught them how to pray.”