In southern Mexico, pope warns against diminishing importance of family

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By David Agren

Mexico (CNS) — Pope Francis warned against moves to diminish the importance of
the family, peppering his talk with anecdotes and off-the-cuff remarks that
kept a packed soccer stadium cheering, laughing and applauding.

Speaking under a scorching-hot
sun as dozens were treated for heat stroke, the pope said family life was not
always easy and often was a struggle, but he pleaded for perseverance, saying family
life was one of the solutions to increasing isolation and uncertainty and its
unintended consequences.

“I prefer a wounded family
that makes daily efforts to put love into play to a society that is sick from
isolationism and is habitually afraid of love,” Pope Francis said Feb. 15 in
front of a boisterous audience of families, who came from across southern
Mexican and nearby Guatemala for a celebration in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez.
“I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again to a society
that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. I prefer a family
with tired faces from generous giving to faces with makeup that know nothing of
tenderness and compassion.”

The pope’s focus on families
turned the focus of his six-day visit toward the pastoral issues after hitting
hard on matters such as corruption, crime and the country’s often impoverished
and exploited indigenous populations.

During the event, a couple from
the city of Monterrey — one of whom was divorced — spoke of the stigma and
sense of not belonging by not being able to receive Communion, but finding a
home in the Catholic Church by serving others and organizing pastoral projects.

“As we came close to our
church, we received loved and compassion,” said Humberto and Claudia Gomez,
who are married civilly, but not in the church. “It’s marvelous to have a
marriage and family in which God is at the center.”

Another speaker, single mother
Beatriz Munoz Hernandez, 52, spoke of a childhood marked by “poverty,
violence and abandonment” by her father, then of becoming pregnant as a

“I found the love of God
through his church and he rescued me, announced that he loved me, that he didn’t
reject me and, above all, that he forgave me,” said Munoz, adding her
faith helped in overcoming the temptation of seeing abortion as a solution to
several pregnancies.

Pope Francis cracked jokes
throughout his speech and strayed from his prepared text. He mentioned a couple
married for 50 years and asked “who was the most patient.” The answer
was obvious for the pope: “Both of them.”

Departing from prepared remarks,
he offered advice for creating happy families and keeping the peace in times of

“Do not end the day without
making peace,” Pope Francis said. “If you end the day in war, you
will end up in cold war, and a cold war is very dangerous in the family,
because it will undermine families from underneath.”

Pope Francis focused most on
overcoming isolation and uncertainty and its insidious effects.

“Uncertainty is not only a
threat to our stomach (which is already serious), but it can also threaten our
soul, demoralizing us and taking away our energy, so that we seek apparent
solutions that, in the end solve nothing,” he said. “There is a kind
of uncertainty which can be very dangerous, which can creep in surreptitiously;
it is the uncertainty born of solitude and isolation.”

He cited the example of Humberto
and Claudia and their service to others as a solution. Another solution, he
said, was with smart public policy, “which protects and guarantees the
bare necessities of life so that every home and every person can develop
through education and dignified employment.”

“Laws and personal
commitment,” the pope said, “are a good pairing to break the spiral
of uncertainty.”

Family is often seen as a social
safety net in Mexico and a pillar in a low-trust society, though state
statistics show people are marrying less, divorcing more and increasingly
living in nontraditional families.

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