VATICAN CITY — Unity and fidelity in a Christian marriage can offer an example of true love to the world, Pope Francis said Tuesday.

In his annual speech to the members of the Roman Rota, the Vatican’s highest court, the Pope described “unity and fidelity” as fundamental cornerstones of Catholic theology and canonical matrimonial law.

Praising the unsung heroism of many Catholic couples, the Pope said that their “generous unity” and “faithful love” reflects the image and likeness of God and participates “in the fruitfulness of the Church itself.”

“Truly, many Christian spouses are a silent homily for everyone,” Pope Francis said in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Jan. 29.

The Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, along with the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura. Among the Rota’s primary responsibilities is considering appeals in marriage nullity, or annulment, cases.

“The society in which we live is increasingly secularized and does not favor the growth of the faith, with the consequence that the Catholic faithful find it hard to witness a lifestyle according to the Gospel, including the sacrament of marriage,” the Pope told the Rota’s members.

Engaged couples need formation, particularly with examples of unity and fidelity in marriage, Pope Francis explained, pointing out that in interpersonal and social relationships there is a general “lack of fidelity to the word given and to the commitments undertaken.”

The Pope said that couples continue to need “the constant and pastoral care of the Church” after marriage. He recommended the sacraments, lectio divina, catechetical meetings, spiritual direction, family groups and charitable service to strengthen a marriage.

For marriage inspiration, Catholics can turn to the scriptural account of Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple who were active members of the early Roman Christian community and faithful companions in the missionary work of St. Paul, Francis said.

Pope Francis noted how the “love and marital fidelity of the spouses Aquila and Priscilla were of great comfort for Paul and Apollo,” saying this “synergy” in collaboration among early married Christians and St. Paul was “a precious gift of the Spirit to the first Christian communities.”

“We, therefore, ask the Holy Spirit to give today to the Church priests who are able to appreciate and value the charisms of the spouses with a strong faith and apostolic spirit, such as Aquila and Priscilla,” he said.

Pope Francis then blessed the Roman Rota and invoked divine assistance for their work and judgments in the upcoming year.