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Pope offers a lifeline to families BY CINDY WOODEN Despite the master of ceremonies’ plea to POPE FRANCIS gave practical advice about family life to thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square on Saturday. hang on to the helium-filled balloons until everyone was told to release them, throughout the evening balloons dotted the sky over St Peter’s Square. The Pope’s comments came as he seeks to focus the attention of the global Church on the pastoral care of families. Next Octo- ber the world’s bishops will gather in Rome to discuss the challenges of modern Catholic family life, a concern Francis has mentioned repeatedly in his first months as Pope.
“Life is often wearisome. Work is tiring. Looking for work is exhausting,” he said on Saturday. “But what is most burden- some in life is a lack of love.”
He said he knew many families were struggling financially and emotionally, while others were threatened by war or split apart by migration. Many young people wanted to marry but did not see how they could without a home and a good job. “The Lord knows our struggles and the burdens we have in our lives,” he said. “But he also knows our great desire to find joy and rest.”
Through the sacrament of marriage, he said, a couple receives the grace they need. “The sacraments are not decorations in life; the sacrament of marriage is not just a pretty ceremony,” he said. “Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it.”
The celebration of family life, part of the Year of Faith, drew an estimated 100,000 people to St Peter’s Square.
The Pope urged Catholic couples to go against the cultural trend of seeing every- thing, including relationships, as fleeting. Marriage is a life-long journey, he said, “a long journey, not little pieces”.
Family life was filled with beautiful moments like shared meals, walks in the park and visits to the grandparents, Pope Francis said. “But if love is missing, joy is missing. Nothing is fun.” For families, as for all Christians, Jesus is the source of endless love. Couples, he said, must pray together “because they need to for the long journey they are making together”.
Pope Francis also told the crowd that three phrases were essential for a peaceful family life: “‘May I?’ to make sure you aren’t being intrusive, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’.”
For hours before the Pope arrived, singers and storytellers took the stage in St Peter’s Square, recounting the greatness of love and family life, and the importance of forgiveness.
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Pope Francis, who was given a balloon in the atrium of St Peter’s Basilica, enter- tained the little ones who were to escort him to the stage by letting his go, too.
The evening’s formal programme began with a girl identified only as Federica showing the Pope a drawing she made of her mother teaching her to cook cutlets. She said it was her favourite food and “I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time”.
Federica said her mother also taught her to make the Sign of the Cross, and Pope Francis asked all the children, if they knew how, to join him in beginning their encounter “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.
Dozens of people, including from chil- dren to grandparents, were invited to speak, sharing the story of their family lives.
In his own talk the Pope said that Catholic couples who promised to love one another in sickness and health, joy and sorrow, all the days of their lives, put their lives in the hands of God and rely on him for strength. “They do not run away; they do not hide; they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world,” he said.
The next morning, Pope Francis was back in St Peter’s Square celebrating Mass with the families. Again, he spoke of the importance of praying as a family.
He said he knew many of them were thinking that it sounds like a nice thing to do, but they couldn’t imagine finding the time. “We need simplicity to pray as a family,” he said. “Praying the Our Father together around the table is not something extraordinary; it’s easy. Praying the rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength.”
Through family prayer, going to church together and even teaching children to make the Sign of the Cross, he said, the family is the place where the Christian faith is kept alive and passed on.
The faith is not “a personal treasure like a bank account” or something to be kept “in a strong box”, he said.
Later the same day the Pope celebrated reaching 10 million followers on Twitter. He said in a tweet: “Dear followers I understand there are now over 10 million of you! I thank you with all my heart and ask you to continue praying for me.”
Adams cartoon: Page 12
Editorial comment: Page 13
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THE CONTROVERSIAL artist Damien Hirst has been praised by pro-lifers for a series of bronze statues of unborn children in sense of awe and wonder at this extraordinary human process.”
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which took three years to complete, range from 16ft to 35ft in height and weigh between nine and 28 tonnes.
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Qatari authorities on their eye-catching initiative. Educating the public about the wonderful reality of human development from conception through to birth is a vital means of saving unborn children.”
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