Pope Francis explains "Mutual love between man and woman is a reflection of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves the human being..." FULL TEXT



Consistory Hall
Friday, April 29, 2022

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I welcome you and wish you good work in this Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. And I thank Prof. Zamagni for his kind and acute words.

You have focused your attention on the reality of the family. I appreciate this choice and also the perspective according to which you consider it, that is, as a " relational good ". We know that social changes are changing the living conditions of marriage and families around the world. Furthermore, the current context of prolonged and multiple crisis puts a strain on the projects of stable and happy families. We can respond to this state of affairs by rediscovering the value of the family as the source and origin of the social order, as the vital cell of a fraternal society and capable of taking care of the common home.

The family is almost always at the first place on the scale of values ​​of different peoples, because it is inscribed in the very nature of women and men. In this sense, marriage and the family are not purely human institutions, despite the numerous changes they have known over the centuries and the cultural and spiritual differences between the various peoples. Beyond all the differences, common and permanent traits emerge, which manifest the greatness and value of marriage and the family. However, if this value is experienced in an individualistic and privatistic way, as is partly the case in the West, the family can be isolated and fragmented in the context of society. Thus, the social functions that the family exercises among individuals and in the community are lost, especially in relation to the weakest, such as children,

It is therefore a question of understanding that the family is good for society , not as a simple aggregation of individuals, but as a relationship founded in a "bond of mutual perfection", to use an expression of St. Paul ( cf. 3.12-14). Indeed, the human being is created in the image and likeness of God, who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4: 8.16). Mutual love between man and woman is a reflection of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves the human being, destined to be fruitful and to be fulfilled in the common work of social order and the care of creation.

The good of the family is not of an aggregative type , that is, it does not consist in aggregating the resources of individuals to increase the usefulness of each one, but it is a relational bond of perfection , which consists in sharing relationships of faithful love, trust, cooperation, reciprocity, from which the goods of the individual members of the family derive and, therefore, their happiness. Understood in this way, the family, which is a relational good in itself, also becomes the source of many goods and relationships for the community, such as a good relationship with the State and other associations of society, solidarity between families, the welcome of those in difficulty, attention to the least, the contrast to the processes of impoverishment, and so on.

This perfective bond, which we could call its specific "social genome", consists in loving action motivated by gift, by living according to the rule of generous reciprocity and generativity. The family humanizes people through the relationship of "we" and at the same time promotes the legitimate differences of each one. This, attention, is really important to understand what a family is, which is not just an aggregation of people.

The social thought of the Church helps to understand this relational love proper to the family, as the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia tried to do , inserting itself in the wake of the great tradition, but with that tradition, taking a step forward.

One aspect that I would like to emphasize is that the family is the place of welcomeNot much talk about it, but it is important. Its qualities are manifested in a particular way in families where there are fragile or disabled members. These families develop special virtues, which enhance the capacity for love and patient endurance towards the difficulties of life. Let us think of the rehabilitation of the sick, the reception of migrants, and in general the social inclusion of those who are victims of marginalization, in all social spheres, especially in the world of work. Integrated home care for people with severe disabilities sets in motion in family members that capacity for care that is able to respond to the specific needs of each one. Think also of families that generate benefits for the whole of society, including adoptive families and foster families. The family - we know - is the main antidote to poverty, material and spiritual, as it is also the problem of the demographic winter or irresponsible motherhood and fatherhood. These two things are to be emphasized. The demographic winter is a serious matter. Here in Italy it is a serious matter compared to other European countries. It cannot be left aside, it is a serious matter. And the irresponsibility of motherhood and fatherhood is another serious thing that must be taken into account to help prevent it from happening.

The family becomes a bond of perfection and a relational good the more it makes its own nature flourish, both by itself and with the help of other people and institutions, including governmental ones. It is necessary that social, economic and cultural "family friendly" policies be promoted in all countries For example, the policies that make harmonization between family and work possible; fiscal policies that recognize family burdens and support the educational functions of families by adopting appropriate instruments of fiscal equity; policies of acceptance of life; social, psychological and health services centered on supporting couple and parental relationships.

A family-friendly society is possible. Because the company was born and evolved with the family. Not everything is attributable to the contract, nor can everything be imposed by command. In reality, when a civilization uproots the tree of the gift from its land as gratuitousness , its decline becomes unstoppable. Well, the family is the primary planter of the tree of gratuitousness. The relationality that is practiced in the family does not rest on the axis of convenience or interest, but on that of being, which is preserved even when relationships break down. And I would like to underline this of gratuitousness, because we don't think about it so much; it is very important to insert it in the reflection on the family. Gratuitousness in the family: the gift, giving and receiving the gift freely.

I believe that there are some conditions to rediscover the beauty of the family. The first is to remove from the mind's eye the "cataract" of ideologies that prevent us from seeing reality. It is the pedagogy of the inner teacher - that of Socrates and Saint Augustine - and not one that simply seeks consent. The second condition is the rediscovery of the correspondence between natural marriage and sacrament marriage. The separation between the two, in fact, ends up, on the one hand, by making us think of sacramentality as something added, extrinsic, and on the other, it risks abandoning the institution of the family to the tyranny of the artificial. The third condition is, as Amoris laetitia recalls, the awareness that the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony - which is the "social" sacrament par excellence - heals and elevates the whole of human society and is the leaven of fraternity. "The whole life in common of the spouses, the whole network of relationships that they will weave among themselves, with their children and with the world, will be impregnated and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament that flows from the mystery of the Incarnation and of Easter, in which God he expressed all his love for humanity and was intimately united with it "( n. 74 ).

Dear friends, as I leave you these reflections, I once again assure you of my gratitude, my appreciation for the activities of this Pontifical Academy and also my prayers for you and your families. I bless you from my heart. And you too, please, don't forget to pray for me. Thanks!