Pope urges Baltic bishops to defend families

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Pope Francis spoke to the bishops of Latvia and Estonia at the Vatican Thursday, where he urged them to defend and promote the family “as a fundamental cell of society.”

As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope reminded the prelates of the Catholic communities in the two Baltic states of the challenges of their episcopal work in post-Soviet society: “The Lord has chosen you to work in a society that, after being oppressed for long by regimes founded on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom, today is called to measure itself against other dangerous deceptions, such as secularism and relativism.”

Turning to the topic of the family, Francis went on to say that today marriage is often considered a form of “emotional gratification” that can take any form and be modified at will. He said this “reductive conception” of marriage also affects Christians, leading to an easy recourse to divorce or de facto separations. He called on the Bishops to examine themselves with regard to marriage preparations for young couples, and pastoral care for couples living in irregular situations, “so that the children will not become the first victims and the couples will not feel excluded from the mercy of God and the care of the Church.”

Finally, Pope Francis recognized that the economic crisis has led to emigration in Latvia and Estonia, with consequences for families, which are often headed by a single parent or guardian. The pastoral care of Bishops and priests, and the loving support of the communities, is particularly important for these families, he stressed.

 “The economic and social crisis that has also assailed your countries has, unfortunately, fostered emigration, so that often one-parent families are found in your communities, in need of special pastoral care. The absence of the father or the mother in many families entails for the other spouse greater effort, in all senses, for the growth of the children. Your care and the pastoral charity of your priests, united with the active closeness of the communities, is truly precious for these families.”

As reported, Latvia's Catholic prelates have made controversial public statements about various social issues relevant to the Pope's address to the Baltic bishops, including gay-bashing remarks by Bishop Zbignevs Stankēvičs and accusations of sexual immorality against European political structures by Cardinal Jānis Pujāts.

Pope Francis met with the Baltic bishops just a day following his long-awaited meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived more than an hour late to their scheduled talk.


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