Highlights from Pope Francis’ Latin American Trip: On the Family
Pope Francis visited his native Latin America from July 5th to July 13th, gracing various sites in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Several times during his visit, the Holy Father gave addresses in which he spoke about the family, a topic he has taught about in his Wednesday general audiences from January 7th to June 24th .
On July 6th at Samanes Park in Ecuador, Pope Francis delivered a homily that applied Mary’s role in the Gospel story of the Wedding at Cana to the family. He stressed that the family today, which is “the nearest hospital,” “the first school for the young,” “the best home for the elderly,” and “a small church” is in need of a miracle, much like the newlywed couple at Cana. Like Mary, the Church can be a mother who prayerfully approaches Jesus and is willing to act in order to help Him “pour out the best wine” for families.
On July 7th, Pope Francis met with political, economic, and civil leaders at San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador. There, he gave an address that connected values learned in the family to values important in a peaceful society. The familial values of love, fraternity, and mutual respect can be transformed into gratuitousness, solidarity, and subsidiarity, which are “essential values for society as a whole.” The unconditional love that parents show for all of their children helps them to master selfishness, and this love translates into gratuitousness in society, which is “not something extra, but rather a necessary condition of justice.” The fraternity experienced in families that causes us to care deeply for our brothers and sisters expands into solidarity in society, which “does not only consist in giving to those in need, but in feeling responsible for one another.” In particular, the Pope called us to extend solidarity toward unemployed young people, discarded children, and abandoned elderly. Lastly, the mutual respect learned within the family builds the foundation for subsidiarity in society, by which we respect the goodness in other organizations and people and allow them to contribute to the common good.
At his welcome ceremony in Bolivia on July 8th, Pope Francis encouraged Bolivians, especially those who devote their work to furthering the common good, to give special attention to the family. He emphasized that the family is the basis of society. The family creates social bonds that reflect the bonds of society-at-large, and the family, responsible for the upbringing of children, ensures that the future of society is safe. He also expressed his concern for the bookends of the family, the youth and the elderly. Both groups must be cherished, with the youth being protected for the future and the elderly receiving love within a “culture of remembrance.” In his meeting with civil authorities also on July 8th, the Pope continued his theme of advocating for the family, noting various threats that face the family today, such as domestic violence, alcoholism, and sexism.
Pope Francis visited Niños de Acosta Nu, a children’s hospital in Paraguay on July 11th. There, he addressed the children patients, telling them the Gospel story of how Jesus was “really mad” when the crowds prevented children from coming to him (cf. Mark 10:13-15). Jesus loved children and also pointed to them as an example for his disciples: “Unless you become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). To the children, the Pope said, “We need to learn from you. We need to learn from your trust, your joy, and your tenderness. We need to learn from your ability to fight, from your strength, from your remarkable endurance.” He then addressed the children’s parents and grandparents, praising them for their compassion and support of each other.
Many times throughout the trip, the Holy Father spoke about Mary. At the Marian Shrine of Caacupé on the 11th, he spoke about Mary as one who accompanies all of us in faith, and compared her experience to that of Paraguayan women, “who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated, and laid low by an abominable war.” The next day, his Angelus meditation on July 12th in Paraguay revolved around Mary, who “has always been, and will always be, with her children, especially the poor and those most in need.” The Holy Father invoked Mary’s special intercession for the people of Latin America to conclude many of his other addresses.
The English translations of the Pope’s messages can be found on the Vatican’s website here.