VATICAN CITY — In his Angelus address given on the feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis prayed especially for the approaching Synod of Bishops, which will discuss pastoral challenges to the family.
“The next Synod of Bishops will address the theme of the family, and the preparatory phase has already begun some time ago. For this reason, today, [on] the feast of the Holy Family, I wish to entrust this synodal work to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, praying for families around the world,” he said Dec. 29 in St. Peter’s Square.
Asking the crowds that packed St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets to join with him spiritually, Pope Francis prayed, “Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family and its beauty in God’s plan.”
The Pope dedicated his Angelus message to considering Jesus’ own family as an example for families everywhere. “God wanted to be born in a human family; he wanted to have a mother and a father, like us,” he explained.
“It’s an example that does much good for our families, helping them to become ever more a community of love and reconciliation, in which one experiences tenderness, mutual help and mutual forgiveness.”
Jesus’ own family was not without its difficulties, the Holy Father noted.
Forced to flee to Egypt to escape being killed by Herod, “Joseph, Mary and Jesus experienced the dramatic condition of refugees, marked by fear, uncertainty, need.”
Unfortunately, Pope Francis continued, “in our day, millions of families can see themselves in this sad reality.” Refugees and immigrants do not always find “true welcome [or] respect.”
Yet “Jesus wanted to belong to a family that had experienced these difficulties,” to show that no one “is excluded from the nearness of God’s love.”
“The flight into Egypt because of Herod’s threats shows us that God is also there — there, where man is in danger; there, where man suffers; there, where he escapes, where he experiences rejection and abandonment; but he is also where man dreams, hoping to return to his homeland in freedom, designing and choosing a life of dignity for himself and his family.”
Even in families who do not face such dramatic circumstances, “exiled persons” can be found, noted the Pope — “the elderly, for example, who sometimes are treated as a burdensome presence.”
“Many times I think that one sign to know how a family is doing is to see how the children and elderly are treated in it,” he said.
Pope Francis then repeated one of his oft-used instructions on family life. “Remember the three key phrases: Excuse me; thank you; I’m sorry!” he exhorted the crowds, who cheered in response.
In a family that uses these words, “there is peace and joy,” he assured them.
“Repeat it with me, everyone together!” the Pope urged. “Excuse me; thank you; I’m sorry.”
The Holy Father closed by greeting the many pilgrim groups who had traveled to Rome and wishing everyone a happy feast day.