Pope Asks Priests and Married Couples to Support Each Other
by David Gibson
The vocations of married couples and priests are different, yet complementary and harmonious, Pope Benedict XVI said Sept. 11 in a speech in the Adriatic port city of Ancona, Italy. He encouraged priests and married couples to esteem “each other’s charism.”
Cautioning against “a reductive vision of the family” that views it only “as the object of pastoral action,” Pope Benedict called attention to the family’s own “importance in pastoral action.” He said, “The ministry born of the sacrament of matrimony is important for the life of the church.”
The pope spoke of the family as “the privileged place of human and Christian education,” and said the family remains the priestly ministry’s “closest ally.” He described the family as “a precious gift for the edification of the community.”
But Pope Benedict did not deny that “in these difficult times families require special attention.” He proposed, though, that a recognition that families have needs should not result in a diminished view of the family’s identity” or of how the family enriches spouses, children, society and the church.
The sacramental priesthood and marriage are states of life that “share the same root in the love of Christ,” Pope Benedict said. Thus, priests and married couples “are called to a common mission – to witness to and make present this love … in order to build up the people of God.”
No vocation is simply “a private matter, and even less so is the vocation to marriage, since its horizon is the entire church,” Pope Benedict said. In pastoral activity, he added, the effort should be made “to integrate and harmonize the priestly ministry” with the authentic vocation of marriage and the family.
He said the priest’s “closeness to the family helps it in its turn to become aware of its own profound reality and its own mission.” And Pope Benedict asked couples to love and “be supportive” of priests, while in ongoing ways “asking them to be exemplary ministers among you, who speak to you of God and lead you to God.”
Priests, he said, should “encourage married couples, share their educational responsibilities and help them to renew continually the grace of their marriage.” The pope advised priests to promote the family as a leader in pastoral action.
Moreover, priests should “be welcoming and compassionate” toward couples “who find it harder to fulfill the commitments taken on with the bond of marriage and to all those who, unfortunately, have failed in it,” the pope said.
About the author
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.