Family rescues us from indifference and loneliness and teaches us the essentials of life, Pope Francis said, adding that, as the family of God, the Church has the same role and must evaluate how to live this out.
“Like St. Peter, the Church is called to be a fisher of men, and so too needs a new type of net. Families are this net,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Oct. 7 general audience.
Families, he said, “free us from the sea of loneliness and indifference, so that we can all experience the freedom of being children of God.”
Pope Francis made his comments in his first general audience after the Oct. 4 launch of the Synod of Bishops, which is meeting for three weeks to discuss the theme “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”
After recently concluding a series of catechesis on the family as a lead-in to this year’s synod gathering, Pope Francis explained that he would start a new catechesis on the “indissoluble” relationship between the Church and the family, with the good of all humanity in mind.
He began by drawing attention to the synod’s theme and said that the family today “requires our full attention and care, and the synod must respond to this demand.”
“When families journey along the way of the Lord, they offer a fundamental witness to God’s love, and they deserve the full commitment and support of the Church,” he said.
Francis stressed that it’s inside the family that we learn and develop the bonds of fidelity, sincerity, trust, cooperation and respect, which unite us, even when there are difficulties.
It is families who teach children how to honor one's word, to respect others and to understand one's limits, he said, adding that they also give “an irreplaceable attention to members who are smallest, most vulnerable, wounded and devastated in life.”
But the Pope also noted that, despite the values families offer, they are frequently not supported by the political and economic sectors of life, which seem “to have lost the ability to incorporate the virtues of family life into the common life of society.”
It is here, he said, that the Church is called to live out her mission by first evaluating to what extent she is living as the family of God.
For the Church, the family “is like her Magna Carta: The Church is and must be the family of God,” he said.
The Pope explained that this can be seen in Scripture, when St. Paul says that those who were once far off are no longer strangers or guests, but “fellow citizens of the saints and the family of God.”
Through the Church, “Jesus again passes among us to persuade us that God has not forgotten us,” he said, adding that it is through the family that “the Church again goes out fishing in order to prevent men from drowning in the sea of loneliness and indifference.”
Referring to how, after a night of catching nothing, Peter cast his net out into the deep waters at Jesus’ command, Francis prayed that the Church herself would “go out into the deep” with confidence that she will have a good catch.
Pope Francis closed his audience by praying that the synod fathers, “inspired by the Holy Spirit, encourage the Church to cast out her net with confidence and faith in the word of God.”
He then greeted pilgrims present from various countries around the world and asked that those present continue to pray for the ongoing synod on the family. He prayed that they would always be witnesses to God’s love and mercy in the world.
Afterward, Francis offered a special greeting to a group of Iraqi refugees who were present in the audience and entrusted both pilgrims and the work of the synod to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary.