In the absence so far of a full transcript of Pope Francis’ comments to the Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement on Saturday, which he gave in Spanish, we produce below a translated summary by Vatican Radio’s Italian edition which contains extensive excerpts of the Holy Father’s remarks:
Support the family and defend marriage – both of which have never before been attacked as they are today. This was Pope Francis’ reflection to the Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement whom he received in Paul VI Hall Oct. 25, on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation in Germany in October 1914 by Father Joseph Kentenich.
The meeting, in which some 7,500 people took part, was animated by a conversation between the Pope and those present, and by testimonies and videos of the community, spouses, families and young people from some fifty countries.
Also attending the event were representatives of Ecclesial Movements, among whom was the President of the Focolares, Maria Voce.
Pope Francis answered questions from some exponents of the Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement, turned to topics of the recent Synod of Bishops, and noted how increasingly a model of the family is proposed in society that is understood as a form of “association.”
“That the family is hit, that the family is knocked and that the family is debased as [how can this be] a way of association … Can everything be called a family? How many families are divided, how many marriages are broken, how much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage. At present, from a sociological point of view and from the point of view of human values, as well as, in fact, of the Catholic Sacrament, of the Christian Sacrament, there is a crisis of the family, a crisis because it is hit from all sides and left very wounded!”
Therefore, the Pontiff invited to reflect on the contemporary reality, in which, he underlines, the Sacrament of Marriage is “devalued”. We are witnessing, he notes, the “reduction of the Sacrament to a rite,” “the Sacrament is made a social event,” “the social [dimension] covers the fundamental thing, which is union with God.”
“What they are proposing is not marriage, it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this! The pastoral helps, but in this alone it is necessary that it be ‘body to body.’ Therefore support, and this also means to waste time. The great teacher of wasting time is Jesus! He wasted time to support, to have consciences mature, to heal wounds, to teach. To support is to journey together.”
Connected with this, the Holy Father expressed concern that engaged couples engage in a profound preparation for marriage, have support, and understand the meaning of “forever” which today is disputed by the “culture of the provisional.” He urged them not to be scandalized by what happens, “family tragedies, the destruction of families, the children” who suffer because of their parents’ disagreements, but also [because of] the new [forms] of living together.
“They are new forms, totally destructive and limiting of the grandeur of the love of matrimony. There are so many [persons] living together, and separations and divorces: therefore, the key to know how to help is ‘body to body,’ supporting and not engaging in proselytism, because this does not lead to any result: to support with patience.”
In front of the symbols of Schoenstatt’s spirituality — the Cross of the mission, linked to the Movement’s strong missionary impulse, and the image of the Pilgrim Virgin and then the reading of the Gospel on the Visitation, with the meeting between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth — those present asked the Pope about his “great love for the Virgin” and his “way of seeing the missionary role” of Our Lady. Pope Francis has no doubts: Mary is Mother, educator and “a Church without Mary is an orphanage,” he says.
“Mary is Mother, and one cannot conceive any other title of Mary that is not ‘Mother.” She is Mother, because she brings us Jesus and she helps us with the strength of the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus will be born and grow in us. She constantly gives us life. She is Mother of the Church. She is maternity. We do not have the right — and if we [think we do] we are mistaken – to have a psychology of orphans. A Christian does not have the right to be an orphan. He has a Mother! We have a Mother.”
Founded during World War I, the Schoenstatt Movement was born by the will of Father Joseph Kentenich, who gave life to the initiative with a group of young seminarians, through an act called “Covenant of love with Mary.” With World War II, the experience was reinforced and, after a harsh period of internment in Dachau concentration camp, Father Kentenich “left for what were the fringes of the world then, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and South Africa, to serve the Church,” as the Superior of the Schoenstatt Fathers, Heinrich Walter, said in his greetings. Over time the Movement spread throughout the world. The young people described to the Holy Father the difficulties they face in bringing the missionary impulse to certain environments. Pope Francis recalls Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and answers:
“Witness. To live in such a way that others are conquered by the desire to live as we do! Witness, there is nothing else! To live in such a way that others are interested and ask: ‘Why?’ It is witness, the path of testimony – there is nothing that surpasses it. Witness in everything. We are not anyone’s savior; we are transmitters of Him who saved us all and we can only transmit this if we assume Jesus in our life, in our flesh and in our history.”
The Pontiff is referring to a “witness that also has the capacity to move us, to have us go out on mission,” praying. “A closed Church, Movement or community gets sick: all sicknesses are a closing. A Movement, a Church, a community that goes out, makes mistakes … It makes mistakes, but how lovely it is to ask for forgiveness when one is mistaken! Do not be afraid to go out on mission, to go out on the road! We are walkers.”
The Pope describes himself as “somewhat reckless,” “rash,” but certainly admits that he abandons himself to prayer:
“It helps me not to look at things from the center – there is only one center: Jesus Christ. Rather look at things from the periphery, no?, where they are seen more clearly. When one is shut-in in a small world – the world of movement, of the parish, of the archbishopric, or here, the world of the Curia, then one does not cling to truth. Yes, perhaps one clings to it in theory, but one does not cling to the reality of truth in Jesus. The truth is grasped better from the periphery rather than from the center. This helps me.”
The Pope’s turns his attention to the Church.
“Sometimes I have seen in Episcopal Conferences, in some Episcopates, which have been put in charge of something, of everything, nothing escapes … All functioning well, all well organized, but they lack some things that they could do with just half [of what they have], with less functionalism and more apostolic zeal, more inner freedom, more prayer … This inner freedom is the courage to go out.”
And the invitation is to be constantly renewed.
“To renew the Church is not to make a change here, a change there. It is necessary to do so because life always changes; therefore, it is necessary to adapt oneself. However, this is not renewal. Also here, which is public, I can say it: “It is necessary to renew the Curia”; the Curia is being renewed; it is necessary to renew the Vatican Bank; it is necessary to renew it.” All of these are external renewals: this is what they say daily … It is curious, no one speaks of renewal of the heart. They do not understand at all what is meant by renewal of the heart, which is sanctity, renewing everyone’s heart.”
And a renewed heart, adds the Pope, is able to go beyond disagreements, whether they are “family disagreements” or “of war,” beyond the “culture of the provisional, which is a culture of destruction of bonds,” to go to a culture of encounter. Hence, the blessing of the Crosses of those present, with the invitation to be missionaries in the five Continents.
Before taking leave, the Pope recalls that some time ago he was given an image of the Mother of Schoenstatt: he prays to her and has her image always with him.[Original: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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