VATICAN CITY — In an address on Sunday to Italy’s National Numerous Family Association, Pope Francis thanked the members of large families for their cultivation of virtues that benefit society at large, as well as themselves.
“The fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you,” he said Dec. 28 to the children among the some 7,000 members of large families from across Italy at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
“The sons and daughters of large families are more inclined to fraternal communion from early childhood. In a world that is frequently marred by selfishness, a large family is a school of solidarity and sharing; and these attitudes are of benefit to all society.”
The audience was on the occasion of the association’s 10th anniversary and marked the feast of the Holy Family. Pope Francis is committed to encouraging families. He will attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015.
“You have come here with the most beautiful fruits of your love,” he said to the parents of the families. “Maternity and paternity are gifts from God, but your task is to receive this gift, to be amazed by its beauty and to let it shine in society. Each of your children is a unique creation that will never be repeated in the history of humanity. When we understand this, that each person is willed by God, we are astonished by the great miracle that is a child. A child changes your life!”
We have all seen, he reminded them, men and women who have profoundly changed “when a child arrives,” adding that a child is “the unique fruit of love,” coming from and growing in love.
“You, children and young people, are the fruit of the tree that is the family: You are good fruit when the tree has good roots, grandparents, and a good trunk, the parents,” Pope Francis said. “The great human family is like a forest, in which the trees bear solidarity, communion, fidelity, support, security, happy moderation and friendship. The presence of large families is a hope for society.”
This, he said, “is why the presence of grandparents is very important: a valuable presence, both in terms of practical assistance, but, above all, for their contribution to education. Grandparents conserve the values of a people, of a family, and they help parents transmit them to their children. Throughout the last century, in many countries in Europe, it was the grandparents who transmitted the faith.”
“Dear parents, thank you for your example of love for life that you protect from conception to its natural end, in spite of all the difficulties and burdens of life, that, unfortunately, public institutions do not always help you to bear.”
He lamented that while the Italian constitution calls for particular regard for large families, this is only a matter of “words” and is “not adequately reflected in the facts.”
Considering Italy’s low birth rate, he voiced hope that politicians and public administrators would give large families “all due support.”
“Every family is a cell of society, but the large family is a richer, more vital cell, and the state has much to gain by investing in it.”
In light of this, he affirmed the National Numerous Family Association, and groups like it, for advocating for large families in the European nations and for being “present and visible in society and in politics.”
He concluded by praying in particular “for those families most affected by the economic crisis; those in which the mother or father have lost their jobs and in which the young are unable to find work; and those families in which the closest relationships are marked by suffering and who are tempted to give in to loneliness and separation.”