12 June 2021
Forum Amoris Laetitia
Amoris Laetitia: integrating fragility of families
Summary (first session) of the fourth and last day of the Amoris Laetitia Forum
We have reached the final day of our Forum on “Where do we stand with Amoris Laetitia? Strategies for the pastoral application of Pope Francis’ Exhortation”. For the first time, all the delegates of family ministry at the level of national and regional bishops’ conferences and international movements and associations came together with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
This final day, moderated by Rev. Alexandre Awi Mello, Secretary of the Dicastery, was divided into two sessions. The first, on the theme “The fragility of families”, began with a presentation by Most Rev. Victor Fernández, Archbishop of La Plata, entitled “Accompanying, discerning and integrating fragility”.
Archbishop Fernández began with an analysis of chapter 8 by saying that “In chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis refers to “situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to [the Church’s] teaching on marriage” (292), the so-called “irregular situations”. He proposes a path of discernment for greater integration. In any case, for Pope Francis, this is a secondary issue. What interests him more are “the two central chapters, dedicated to love” (6). In relation to these, there is a need to stimulate “the growth, consolidation and deepening of love” (89). “The pastoral care of engaged and married couples should be centred on the marriage bond” (211) in order to deepen love and protect it. It is pastoral care that stimulates communion, self-giving, tenderness and mutual belonging. The Pope says that it is essential to take care of love in marriages by encouraging its growth. This is because “Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace” (134). Hence his provocative question to the participants: “In this general framework, what is the precise meaning of this chapter that speaks of broken relationships? It is first and foremost “an invitation to mercy and pastoral discernment when faced with situations that do not fully respond to what the Lord wants from us” (6).
He then went on to say that chapter 8 of the Exhortation thus seeks to “integrate the good that is possible” and to accompany people in difficult situations. This accompaniment must be combined with continuous discernment by the couple, which in any case has its limits. A central reference point for this issue is the Guidelines issued by the Bishops of the Buenos Aires Region (Argentina).
An animated and productive discussion followed the talk which was much appreciated by the participants. From the discussion there emerged a desire to exchange good practices and testimonies that can help to prevent many forms of fragility within families and to heal open wounds. Archbishop Fernandez encouraged paths of personal accompaniment with people who are hurting. The main objective, however, is always to strengthen love, and this is what needs to be done better.
(second and conclusive session will follow)