The marriage bond “requires on the part of engaged couples a conscious choice based on the will to build together something that must never be betrayed or abandoned,” said Pope Francis, in an address September 27, 2018, on preparation for marriage. The Holy Father recommended a path of preparation deepened and extended in time,” necessary for engaged couples to develop the “antibodies” that will enable them to face the difficulties of conjugal and family life.
The Holy Father received in audience the participants in the Course of Formation on Marriage and the Family, organized by the diocese of Rome and by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. Parish priests, permanent deacons, spouses, and agents of the family pastoral attended the Course, which was held in Rome’s Lateran Basilica from September 24-26, 2018.
Moreover, the Pontiff invited the Bishops, the priests and the agents of the pastoral to support couples “first of all in an attitude of listening and of understanding,” of “those that realized the fact that their union is not a true sacramental marriage and who want to come out of this situation.” He also hoped for a pastoral capable of meeting and welcoming young people who live together outside of marriage. “It’s necessary to witness to them the beauty of marriage!” he said.
Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address.
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Pope Francis’ Address
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It’s a joy for me to meet with you at the end of the Course of Formation on Marriage and the Family, organized by the diocese of Rome and by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. I address to each one of you my warm greetings and I thank the Cardinal Vicar, the doyen of the Rota and those who collaborated in these days of studies and reflection. They gave you the occasion to examine the challenges and pastoral projects concerning the family, considered in as much as domestic Church and sanctuary of life. It’s a vast, complex and delicate apostolic field, to which it is necessary to dedicate energy and enthusiasm, with the intention to promote the Gospel of the family and of life. On this subject, how can one not recall the ample and clear vision of my Predecessors, in particular, Saint John Paul II, who courageously promoted the cause of the family, decisive and irreplaceable for the common good of peoples?
Following them, I developed this subject, in particular in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, putting at the center the urgency of a serious path of preparation for Christian marriage, which is not reduced to a few meetings. Marriage is not only a “social” event but a veritable Sacrament that entails an adequate preparation and a conscious celebration. In fact, the marriage bond requires, on the part of the engaged couple, a conscious choice based on the will to build together something that must never be betrayed or abandoned. In the different dioceses of the world, initiatives are being developed to make the family pastoral more adapted to the real situation, which implies in the first place the accompaniment of engaged couples for marriage. It’s important to offer engaged couples the possibility to take part in Seminars and Retreats of Prayer, which also involve as leaders, in addition to priests, married couples that have a well-established family experience and experts in psychological disciplines.
Very often, the ultimate root of problems that appear after the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage, is to be found not only in a hidden and distant immaturity that explodes suddenly, but especially in the weakness of the Christian faith and the absence of ecclesial accompaniment, in solitude where in general young spouses are left after the celebration of marriage. It’s only when they are faced with the everyday of life together, which calls spouses to grow in a path of the gift of themselves and of sacrifice, that some realize that they did not fully understand what they were preparing to begin. And they find themselves inadequate, especially when faced with the scope and value of Christian marriage, in what concerns the concrete consequences linked to the indissolubility of the bond, to openness to the transmission of the gift of life, and to fidelity.
That is why I repeat the need for a permanent catechumenate for the Sacrament of Marriage, which concerns its preparation, the celebration and the first times that follow. It’s a path shared between priests, agents of the pastoral and Christian spouses. The priests, especially the parish priests, are the first interlocutors of young people who want to form a new family and get married in the Sacrament of Marriage. The accompaniment by the ordained minister will help the future spouses to understand that marriage between a man and a woman is the sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church, helping them to become aware of the profound meaning of the step they are about to take. The more the path of preparation is deepened and extended in time, the more young people will learn to correspond to the grace and the strength of God, and to develop the “antibodies” to face the inevitable moments of difficulty and the effort of conjugal and family life.
In the course of preparation for marriage, it’s indispensable to take up the catechesis on Christian initiation in the faith, whose content must not be considered as evident or acquired by the engaged couples. On the contrary, more often than not the Christian message is altogether to be rediscovered for one who remained with some elementary notion of the First Communion catechism and, if everything goes well, of Confirmation. Experience teaches that the time of preparation for marriage is a time of grace where the couple is particularly disposed to hear the Gospel and to accept Jesus as Teacher of life. Thanks to couples’ sincere attitude of reception, an adapted language and a clear presentation of the contents, it’s possible to activate dynamics that go beyond the lacunae that are very frequent today, that it’s a question of a lack of catechetical formation or the absence of a filial sentiment towards the Church, which nevertheless are part of the foundations of Christian marriage.
The greatest efficacy of pastoral care is realized where the accompaniment doesn’t cease with the celebration of the marriage, but “escorts” at least the first years of conjugal life. Through conversations with the couple and communitarian moments, it’s about helping the young spouses to acquire the instruments and the supports to live their vocation. And this can’t happen except through a course of growth in the faith of the couples themselves. Fragility here, under this profile, if often found in young people approaching marriage, making it necessary to accompany their path beyond the celebration of the marriage. And this, experience also tells us, is a joy for them and for those that accompany them. It’s an experience of joyous maternity, when the new spouses are the object of the attentive solicitude of the Church, in the steps of their Teacher, as a thoughtful mother that doesn’t abandon, doesn’t move away, but approaches with tenderness, embraces and encourages.
In connection with spouses who experience serious problems in their relationship and who find themselves in a situation of crisis, it’s necessary to help them revive their faith and rediscover the grace of the Sacrament and, in certain cases, to evaluate with rectitude and interior freedom, to offer appropriate indications to undertake a process of annulment. May those who realize the fact that their union is not a true sacramental marriage and who want to come out of this situation, be able to find in the Bishops, the priests and the pastoral agents the necessary support, which is expressed not only in the communication of juridical norms but first of all in an attitude of listening and understanding. In this connection, the ruling on the new marriage process is a valid instrument, which calls to be applied concretely and indistinctly by all, at all ecclesial levels, since its ultimate reason is the “salus animarum”! I was happy to learn that numerous Bishops and judicial vicars received promptly and implemented the new marriage process, to bring peace to consciences, especially of the poorest and estranged of our ecclesial communities.
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your engagement in favor of the proclamation of the Gospel of the Family. I hope that the horizon of the family pastoral will be ever vaster, assuming the style proper of the Gospel, meeting and also welcoming these young people, who choose to live together without getting married. It’s necessary to witness to them the beauty of marriage! May the Holy Spirit help you to be artisans of peace and consolation, especially for the most fragile persons who are in need of support and pastoral solicitude. I give you my heartfelt blessing and I ask you, please, to pray for me.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester