Addressing more than 20,000 pilgrims in St Peter's Square during the weekly General Audience the Pope continued his catechesis on the family opening up his reflections to a new perspective: the difficulties and problems that put families to the test in modern society.
One condition that afflicts families today, he said, is poverty. The Holy Father spoke about the misery and degradation that can accompany poverty, in the suburbs of big cities and in rural areas alike, a situation that is often aggravated by war that has a profound impact on civilians. "In truth, war is the 'mother of all poverty', a great predator of lives, souls, and of the dearest and most sacred affections", he said.
However, he added, there are many families who, although poor, seek to live their daily lives with dignity, often openly trusting in God's blessing. Nevertheless, this "must not justify our indifference, but rather increase our shame! It is almost a miracle that, even in poverty, families continue to form, and indeed preserve as best they can, the special humanity of their bonds. It is a fact that irritates those planners of well-being who consider sentiments, procreation and family bonds as a variable secondary to the quality of life. Instead, we should kneel before these families, who are a true school of humanity and who save society from barbarism."
"What will become of us if we give in to the blackmail of violence and money, and go so far as to renounce the affections of the family? A new form of civil ethics will arise only when those responsible in public life recognise the social bond, starting with the fight against the downward spiral of poverty in the family, that leads us to the abyss."
The Pope also remarked on the contradiction inherent in today's economy that often appears to specialise in individual well-being, but practices the widespread exploitation of family relationships. "The immense labour of the family is not quoted on balance sheets, naturally!" he exclaimed. "It is not merely a question of bread. We are talking about work, education, healthcare. It is important to be clear about this."
"We must endeavour to stay ever closer to families afflicted by poverty", he repeated. "In effect, social misery affects the family and at times destroys it. The lack or loss of work, or its precariousness, have serious repercussions on family life, putting relationships under stress. The living conditions in the most disadvantaged areas, with problems regarding housing and transport, as well as the reduction of social, healthcare and educational services, cause further difficulties. Added to these material factors there is also the damage caused to the family by false models, propagated by the mass media, based on consumerism and the cult of appearances, which affect the poorest social classes and increase the disintegration of family bonds."
"The Church is Mother, and must never forget the tragedy of her children. She too must be poor, to become fruitful and to respond to so much suffering.
A poor Church is a Church that practices a voluntary simplicity in her own life - in her institutions, in the lifestyle of her members - to break down walls of separation, especially those that separate us from the poor. This takes prayer and action. Let us pray intensively to the Lord to awaken us, to make our Christian families agents in this revolution of family closeness that is now so necessary. This is what the Church has been made of since the very beginning. And let us not forget", he warned, "that the judgement of the needy, the small and the poor prefigures the judgement of God."
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