Amoris Laetitia a gift for families in the name of integration and mercy
Pope Francis greets newly married couples during his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on 30 September 2015. Pope Francis' post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), was released on 8 April. The exhortation is the concluding document of the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family. Photo: CNS.
By Marco Ceccarelli
As outlined by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe in his comments on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, at the heart of the document is the idea that, while the Church must not abandon or water down the ideals of Christian life, its role should be to accompany people on their faith journey, supporting and encouraging them while never condemning those who find it difficult to do so.
In essence, the Archbishop captures the nucleus of the Apostolic Exhortation, which was released on 8 April, emphasising its message on pastoral care which is of particular significance in the context of this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Amoris Laetitia is the result of a deep examination of family life and of love within the family. It is a long document made up of an introduction, nine chapters, and a concluding prayer. There are 325 paragraphs and 256 pages in all.
Throughout the document, Pope Francis focuses on the beauty of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, and acknowledges with realism the fragile realities and the challenges facing married couples today.
On the latter point, explored in further detail in the eighth chapter, the Pope calls on pastors and those working in family apostolates to listen with discernment to anyone who feels wounded so they may experience God’s unconditional love.
This chapter also offers a detailed explanation at how general rules may not directly apply to every particular situation and stresses that the complexity of each situation needs to be taken into account.
Amoris Laetitia affirms the teaching of Church on family and draws on past documents to assert their validity and richness for our times. Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II, Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, and Familiaris Consortio of John Paul II are all, in fact, widely quoted.
The Apostolic Exhortation also reaffirms the Church’s teaching that families are the building blocks of a healthy society and a place where children learn to love, respect and interact with others.
A further hint at the overarching message which Amoris Laetitia conveys for believers in the 21st century can perhaps be found in its title, The Joy of Love.
The invitation to partake in this joy is first and foremost an encouragement to treasure the teachings of Jesus Christ who inspires His followers to find happiness in the demonstration of mercy and compassion.
The text of Amoris Laetitia is available to download from the ACBC website: https://www.catholic.org.au/synod-2015/blog.