Pope Encourages Priests to Support Married Couples
On Saturday, February 25, 2017, Pope Francis met with parish priests for a training session in handling declarations of nullity (annulments) and other canonical issues related to marriage. Training in this area is of particular importance because it is the parish priest who daily comes into contact with married couples and those who have experienced a civil divorce.
“No one knows better than you do the complexity and variety of problems that exist in marriage,” said the pope, problems such as broken marriages, civil marriages, and hardships that cause unhappy family life.
The Holy Father exhorted the priests to witness to the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony and to the family as the “vital heart of the Church and society.” Marriage as a union of man and woman is a reflection of the love between Christ and the Church, and the love of God.
Parish priests are called to support those marriages that are struggling or sacramentally invalid. It is in these times that priests should act as brothers rather than bureaucrats. The pope also called for a special kind of tenderness and compassion toward young couples who choose to cohabitate rather than marry, reminding the priests that the Church never abandons those “poor and little ones.”
Pope Francis concluded his speech with a reminder of his recent speech to the Roman Rota about marriage preparation. He asks for a new teaching model for preparing couples for matrimony that does not end after the wedding. Rather, in this new model, the priest continues to teach and walk with married couples from sacramental preparation through the first years of marriage. “I encourage you to put this teaching into practice,” the Holy Father exhorted.