VATICAN CITY — Meeting a group of pilgrims from the Italian diocese his father’s family came from, Pope Francis said the family “remains a key value” even though it is “a reality that has changed so much and continues to change.”
“But do you know when the real ‘revolution’ of the family happened? Do you know who did it?” the pope asked.
It was Jesus, he told the pilgrims from the Diocese of Asti during an audience at the Vatican May 5.
Pope Francis said he addressed the pilgrims as “brothers and sisters” not because it is a traditional formula the popes use. “No. It is a reality, a new reality generated by Jesus Christ.”
“The strongest, most important bond for us as Christians is no longer one of blood, but it is the love of Christ,” the pope said. “His love transforms the family, frees it from the dynamics of selfishness, which stem from the human condition and from sin, liberates it and enriches it with a new bond, even stronger but free, not dominated by the interests and conventions of kinship, but animated by gratitude, thankfulness, mutual service.”
Everyone should thank God for the gift of life and for their parents who gave it to them, he said.
But, he said, Christians also give thanks “because Jesus Christ has called us to be part of his family, in which what matters is doing the will of the Father who is in heaven.”
Faith can give new meaning and value to blood relationships, he said, but being part of Jesus’ family also should impact relationships with other people in the church and in the community by increasing “gratuitousness, respect, acceptance and other human values.”
That is one reason, he said, that he chose the phrase “Fratelli tutti” — brothers and sisters all — as the title for his 2020 encyclical on increasing human fraternity and friendship.
The pope also said he was pleased the Diocese of Asti had chosen “Fratelli Tutti” as the name of its new outpatient medical clinic for the poor.
“‘Fratelli tutti’ means that there, in that environment, a family will be formed by the people who are cared for and by the doctors, nurses and all the volunteers,” he said.
In cities and towns and parishes “fraternity” should not be just “an ideal for dreamers,” Pope Francis said, because “it has a foundation, Jesus Christ, who made us all brothers and sisters, and it has a way, the Gospel, that is the path to walk in love, in service, in forgiveness, in bearing one another’s burdens.”