Pope laments youth’s lack of interest in married life

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POPE FRANCIS is saddened that marriage is becoming farthest in the minds of young people, calling on the Church to help ease unduly high expectations on married life.

In his post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), the Holy Father joined the world’s bishops in a call to help young people rediscover aspirations for married life, to further strengthen the family as institution.

“We live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family,” Francis said in the exhortation released by the Vatican on April 8.

“We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage,” he added.

Some of the reasons behind broken marriages were “unduly high expectations about married life” and not considering the union as a “process,” he said.

“Once it becomes apparent that the reality is more limited and challenging than one imagined, the solution is not to think quickly and irresponsibly about separation, but to come to the sober realization that married life is a process of growth, in which each spouse is God’s means of helping the other to mature,” Francis said.

No to discrimination

The document also called for the elimination of “unjust discrimination” against homosexuals.

“We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration,” Francis said.

Families should be given pastoral guidance, so that persons in “homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.”

Pastoral care

A number of sections dealt with the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics.

Pope Francis called for greater pastoral care for divorced and remarried Catholics, following the Synod of Bishops’ firm decision last year to stick to the Church’s teaching of not allowing them to receive Holy Communion.

“Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together,” Francis said in the exhortation.

Francis called on the clergy to help and guide divorced and remarried Catholics.

“As members of the Church, they (divorced and remarried Catholics) too need pastoral care that is merciful and helpful. The Church needs to minister to the divorced, especially those who were unjustly separated or abandoned or sought it after unjust treatment by their spouse,” Francis wrote.

Catholics in these situations should take a “path of discernment” while examining their conscience and reflecting on their faith.

“[Neither] the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases,” Francis said.

Synod

The exhortation came months after the Synod of Bishops last Oct. 24 to 25, attended by 200 bishops from all over the world.

With the theme “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world,” the synod saw strong opposition from American and African bishops over a proposal to grant divorced and remarried Catholics access to communion.

The Synod stated that such changes would condone adulterous relationships and result in disunity in the Catholic Church.

In an interview, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said Amoris Laetitia did not mean that divorce and remarriage would be tolerated.

“Ang hindi tama ay hindi pa rin tama. Ang kasal ay napakabanal dahil ito ang larawan ng pagmamahal ng Diyos sa tao. It is meant to last, not ‘until further notice,’” the prelate said.

Indissolubility of marriage

Some news agencies interpreted Francis’ exhortation as a relaxation of the Church’s doctrine on marriage and of rules on divorce. The New York Times ran an article saying Francis “seemingly signaled a pastoral path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.”

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, took exception to these commentaries.

“The Pope, by no means, is relaxing Church rules on divorce. In fact, he emphatically reaffirms the centrality and indissolubility of marriage, and he actually says nothing directly about Communion for the divorced and remarried,” said Barron on the Word of Fire blog.

Bishop Barron recently visited the country as one of the speakers during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu last Jan. 24 to 31.

Bishop Ongtioco said Amoris Laetitia was a reminder that God’s love is for all. “Pinaliwag niya (Francis) na ang pagmamahal ng Diyos ay hindi nakakulong sa nagdarasal lang, o sa mga Katoliko na nagsisimba. Dapat ang kaisipan natin ay bukas,” he said. John Gabriel M. Agcaoili

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