Vatican City — Pope Francis urges families to discover God's love and be generous, forgiving, patient, helpful and respectful.
Family life will be better if people use the words "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry" every day, he said, and the world will be a better place if the church reaches out to the imperfect and the wounded.
The pope's reflection was part of a letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which is helping plan the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Aug. 21-26, 2018. The Vatican released the text of the pope's letter March 30.
When asked about the pope's plans to attend the event next year, Farrell told reporters at a Vatican news conference, "We hope. I can't say absolutely" since it depends on the pope's schedule, but the pope has expressed his desire to go.
The letter was meant to help Catholic families and parishes around the world prepare for the gathering, which will focus on the theme, "The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World." The pope said he hoped the event would help families reflect on and share his apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia."
From our sister publication: A Place to Call Home, a new series focusing on women religious helping people who are homeless. Read more
"Does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also, does the family continue to be good news for today's world?" the pope asked.
The answer is, "yes," he said, because God's love is his "yes" to all of creation and a "'yes' to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God's 'yes' and his commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love."
"Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God's love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers," he said.
Making sure family life is "based on love, for love and in love" means "giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'I'm sorry.'"
Every day, people experience fragility and weakness, Francis said. All families and pastors need humility so they will become better disciples and teachers, better at helping and being helped, and able to accompany and embrace all people of goodwill.
"I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man's wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as love, which is mercy," he said.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told reporters that the pope's letter shows the clear, central role families have in the pope's great dream of renewal of the church and society.
"The family is called to be a place of encounter with that divine mercy which heals and liberates," he said. The family is where spouses learn to love "not in vague romantic terms but in terms of their everyday realities and difficulties."
"The pope's vision of the mission of the family does not attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown," the archbishop said. "Families need a church which is with them, accompanying them in a process of discernment and integration though helping them to respond with a 'yes' to the divine love."
Happy, loving families should be recognized and be a resource for the renewal of the church and world, he said.
But the church, Martin said, also must be "a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment, but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly."