Pope Francis has said that a global war on marriage is underway and that Catholics must help couples stay strong and provide pastoral care to those experiencing difficulty.
“Today there is a global war to destroy marriage,” the Pope said during a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, with priests, Religious, seminarians and lay people. “Today you do not destroy with weapons, you destroy with ideas. It is ideological colonisation that destroys.”
The way to strengthen marriages against the onslaught, he said, was to help couples “make peace as soon as possible, before the day ends, and don’t forget the three words: ‘May I?’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘Forgive me.’
“Marriage is the most beautiful thing that God has created,” Pope Francis said. In marriage, man and woman became one flesh, “the image of God. When you divorce one flesh you sully God’s image,” he said. A woman named Irina, who, with her husband ministers to families and teaches Natural Family Planning, told Francis that Georgian families faced challenges brought by “globalisation, which does not take into account local values; new views on sexuality like gender theory; and the marginalisation of the Christian vision of life”.
Gender theory usually refers to the idea that male and female characteristics are largely social constructs rather than being determined by biology.
Responding to Irina, Pope Francis said, “You mentioned a great enemy of marriage: gender theory.” He then said that Catholics must do everything possible to aid couples in difficulty. “The Catholic community must help to save marriages.”
Orthodox bishops stay away from papal Mass
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in a half-empty stadium on Saturday after a boycott by Georgian Orthodox bishops.
Celebrating Mass on the feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Pope Francis praised St Nino – a woman who evangelised Georgia in the 4th century, is recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church and is hailed by the Georgian Orthodox as “equal to the Apostles and the enlightener of Georgia”.
But only a few thousand people – including many expatriates – attended the morning Mass, which was celebrated in a football stadium in Tbilisi.
The vast majority of Georgians are members of the Orthodox Church. Catholics, including Armenians, Chaldeans and members of the Latin Rite Church, account for only about two per cent of the population.
Vatican officials and those involved in Catholic-Orthodox relations had hoped that Georgian Orthodox Ilia II would send an official delegation to the Mass, despite rules preventing the Church’s clergy from attending a non-Orthodox liturgy.
In the end, however, no Georgian Orthodox Patriarch bishops were present. The patriarchate had issued a statement saying that Orthodox attendance at a Catholic liturgy was not possible “as long as dogmatic differences exist”.
“We accept their decision,” said Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, who also noted that Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, a member of the Orthodox Church, was at the liturgy, as were several Armenian Orthodox bishops.
Members of the crowd, though, represented a wide variety of different Christian denominations, as did the choir, which melded singers from the choirs of Catholic parishes and Armenian Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran and Pentecostal churches.
Francis treads carefully with appeal for peace in Tbilisi
Pope Francis has called for greater efforts to sow peace in the Caucasus region.
After arriving in Tbilisi, the Pope met Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili privately and, with the president, he addressed a gathering of civic leaders and diplomats outside the presidential palace.
In a nation where more than 230,000 people are still displaced by the Georgian-Russian dispute over control of South Ossetia, the Pope said it was time to find a way for the displaced to return to their homes. He encouraged nations to respect each other’s “sovereign rights”.
Only Russia and a handful of other nations recognise the supposed independence of South Ossetia.
Mr Margvelashvili was more blunt than the Pope.
Georgia, he said, “is still victim of a military aggression on the part of another state: 20 per cent of our territory is occupied and 15 per cent of the population is displaced.
Their homes were taken only because they are ethnically Georgian.
“Only 40 kilometres [about 25 miles] from here, each day human beings witness violence, kidnappings, murders and offences that deeply wound their dignity.”
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