On the Importance of Ministry to Single Parents and Their Children
Pope Francis addressed the bishops of Latvia and Estonia on June 11th during their ad limina visit to Rome, echoing many of the sentiments in his previous address to the Puerto Rican bishops. He encouraged the Latvian and Estonian bishops to renew their care to consecrated men and women who spread “the perfume of Christ” and to counsel and encourage the laity, who are “indispensable for the evangelizing mission.”
After affirming the central role of consecrated and lay persons in the Church, Pope Francis focused on ministry to families. He encouraged the Latvian and Estonian bishops to continue to strengthen families, noting that the family structure is not only the “fundamental cell of society” but also God’s gift to men and women so that they can find happiness. He also stressed that the family is the primary context in which children learn how to love and be loved and are formed in faith by their parents.
The Holy Father expressed concern for children who are the “victims” of divorce and separation, as well as the spouses that are burdened by such marital difficulties. He called the bishops to counter the modern trend to view marriage as flexible and subjective. This could be done through good pre-marriage preparation, which he hopes will end the ease with which couples consider divorce or separation. Pope Francis also urged the bishops to help spouses who have gone through divorce, and their children, to ensure that they are not excluded from Church communities and continue to grow in their faith.
Finally, Pope Francis considered in particular the economic and social difficulties of the countries of Estonia and Latvia. He expressed his concern for single-parent families, common in these countries because of high emigration rates. Because of the difficulties that single parents face in raising their children, he noted that they require “special pastoral care.” He compelled the bishops to take a greater part in the faith formation of such children and in ensuring that there are active communities that engage with single-parent families.