By DAVID AGREN, Catholic News Service | Published March 3, 2016
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (CNS)—While in Mexico, Pope Francis warned against moves to diminish the importance of the family, peppering his talk Feb. 15 with anecdotes and off-the-cuff remarks that kept a packed soccer stadium cheering, laughing and applauding.
Speaking under a scorching-hot sun as dozens were treated for heat stroke, the pope said family life was not always easy and often was a struggle, but he pleaded for perseverance, saying family life was one of the solutions to increasing isolation and uncertainty and its unintended consequences.
“I prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play to a society that is sick from isolationism and is habitually afraid of love,” Pope Francis said in front of a boisterous audience of families, who came from across southern Mexico and nearby Guatemala for a celebration in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez. “I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again to a society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving to faces with makeup that know nothing of tenderness and compassion.”
The pope’s focus on families turned the focus of his six-day visit toward the pastoral issues after hitting hard on matters such as corruption, crime and the country’s often impoverished and exploited indigenous populations.
During the event, a couple from the city of Monterrey—one of whom was divorced—spoke of the stigma and sense of not belonging by not being able to receive Communion, but finding a home in the Catholic Church by serving others and organizing pastoral projects.
“As we came close to our church, we received loved and compassion,” said Humberto and Claudia Gomez, who are married civilly, but not in the church. “It’s marvelous to have a marriage and family in which God is at the center.”
Pope: Make peace before day’s end
Another speaker, single mother Beatriz Munoz Hernandez, 52, spoke of a childhood marked by “poverty, violence and abandonment” by her father, then of becoming pregnant as a teenager.
“I found the love of God through his church and he rescued me, announced that he loved me, that he didn’t reject me and, above all, that he forgave me,” said Munoz, adding her faith helped in overcoming the temptation of seeing abortion as a solution to several pregnancies.
Pope Francis cracked jokes throughout his speech and strayed from his prepared text. He mentioned a couple married for 50 years and asked “who was the most patient.” The answer was obvious for the pope: “Both of them.”
Departing from prepared remarks, he offered advice for creating happy families and keeping the peace in times of turbulence.
“Do not end the day without making peace,” Pope Francis said. “If you end the day in war, you will end up in cold war, and a cold war is very dangerous in the family, because it will undermine families from underneath.”
Pope Francis focused most on overcoming isolation and uncertainty and its insidious effects.