Introducing a two-day meeting of the world’s cardinals on the family and the Church’s pastoral approach to marriage, Pope Francis stressed that the church’s pastoral approach to helping couples must be “intelligent, courageous and full of love.” “We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties,” he said.
Bergoglio did not enter last, after all the cardinals (180 were expected to be present but only 150 turned up) entered the New Synod Hall, as was customary in the past. Instead he arrived first, welcoming all cardinals at the entrance and greeting them one by one. Among them were the archbishops and Prefects of Congregations that will be created cardinals on Saturday morning. “We accompany them with our prayers and fraternal affection,” the Pope said, looking towards the back rows on the left, where they were seated.
Pope Francis introduced the topic of the meeting, recalling that the central theme of the discussion is the family, “which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.”
“Our reflections,” the Pope added, “must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into “casuistry”, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work.”
“Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated,” the Pope went on to say. “We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity. We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties.”
After the initial Veni Creator Spiritus hymn and a brief greeting from the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, the Pope and the cardinals prayed the Third Hour. Then, after some technicalities were explained by the Secretary of the College, Brazilian archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari, who was nominated just a few months ago, the Consistory continued with a speech by Cardinal Walter Kasper which was split into two parts–with a coffee break in between–and took up the entire morning. In the afternoon individuals cardinals were free to give speeches.