In a “Motu Proprio” issued on 8th September and published yesterday, Pope Francis re-founded the Institute for Marriage and Family set up by Saint John Paul II.
The title of this pontifical document is “Summa Familiae Curaˮ (Great Care for the Family) and right at the start recalls the steps taken by the Church after the Bishops’ Synod in 1980 and the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (On the Christian Family in the Modern World) promulgated in 1981, which gave a more definite form to the Pontifical Institute at the Lateran University.
Today, after two Synods on the family in 2014 and 2015 and after the publication of the Exhortation Amoris laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Church has reached, says Pope Francis «a renewed awareness of the Gospel of the family and the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian Community is called to respond».
On reading the Pope’s document, the great importance of this text and the centrality of the pastoral perspective do not escape us. The Pope talks of an indispensable requirement in his reflections on the family, saying that: “also at the level of academic formation the pastoral perspective and attention to the wounds of humanity must never be lacking”. We do:« well to focus on the concrete reality of the family», given the «anthropological-cultural changes that today influence all aspects of life and require a diversified and analytical approach» and «do not permit us to limit ourselves to pastoral and missionary practice that reflects forms and models of the past ».
A new way of looking at the reality of the family; looking with the eyes of the Spirit, looking with the eyes of the Church as a mother and not just a teacher.
The academic work of the Pontifical Institute, too, is broadening its horizons” both in relation to the new dimensions of the pastoral task and ecclesial mission and with reference to the developments in human sciences and anthropological culture in such a fundamental field for the culture of life».
No-one can question the beauty of the family as announced by the Church. This “Christian” family has contributed much to the good of society and the history of humanity. Now we are seeing that the institutions are creaking, that what once were our certainties and our ties are wavering, and these same sentiments are seeking new forms of expression. Where and how does the Christian family fit in to all this transformation? The foundations of the Christian family are not written on the stone tables of the law, but as Jesus said, the law of the Spirit is written on the “tables of our hearts”. For this reason, above all today, with the strength of the Spirit the Christian family can be an efficient witness to the beauty, the nobleness and profundity of its vocation. With all this in mind, let us now ask ourselves a question: Christian family, what can you tell us about yourself? Allow us to see the beauty and originality of your calling, let us feel the presence of the Lord in your midst. This is almost a silent appeal that the world is making to the Church. The problem is that often it is the Christian families who have lost the “taste of the salt”, they are no longer the “yeast” in the flour of history, no longer the light which illuminates the path. The birth rate in our Western World, the cradle of Christianity, is close to zero and this must make us all think deeply.
Pope Francis is once again is widening our outlook and reforming, rather re-founding an institute which, for a long time, was entrenched in principles often far from reality and refused any change. The Theological Institute will have: «the power to confer iure proprio on its students the following academic degrees: the Doctorate in Matrimonial and Family Sciences, the Master’s Degree in Matrimonial and Family Sciences and the Diploma in Marriage and Family Sciences».