Pope sees 'global war' against marriage, urges church help for couples

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

TBILISI, Georgia (CNS) — Pope Francis said a global war
against marriage is underway and Catholics must respond by helping couples stay
strong and by providing pastoral care to those experiencing difficulty.

“Today there is a global war to destroy marriage,”
the pope said Oct. 1 during a meeting in Tbilisi with priests, religious,
seminarians and laypeople active in parish life.

“Today you do not destroy with weapons, you destroy
with ideas,” the pope said. “It is ideological colonization that

The only way to defend marriage against the onslaught, he
said, is 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

“Marriage is the most beautiful thing that God has
created,” Pope Francis said. In marriage, man and woman become one flesh, “the image of God.”

“When you
divorce one flesh you sully the God’s image,” he said.

A woman named Irina, who with her husband, Zurab, minister
to other families and teach natural family planning, had told Pope Francis that
Georgian families are experiencing new challenges brought by
“globalization, which does not take into account local values, new views
on sexuality like gender theory and the marginalization of the Christian vision
of life.”

Gender theory usually refers to the idea that what
constitute male and female characteristics are largely social and cultural
constructs rather than being determined by biology.

Responding to Irina, Pope Francis said, “You mentioned
a great enemy of marriage: gender theory,” but he did not elaborate.

Instead, he insisted Catholic clergy and faithful must do
everything possible to assist couples experiencing difficulty. “Welcome,
accompany, discern, integrate,” he said. “The Catholic community must
help to save marriages.”

A seminarian identified only by his first name, Kote, asked
Pope Francis how Georgian Catholics can promote better relations with the

“Let’s leave it to the theologians to study the things
that are abstract,” the pope said. The question everyone else should be
asking is: “What must I do with a friend who is Orthodox?”

The answer is fairly simple, he said. “Be open, be a

“You must never proselytize the Orthodox,” the
pope said. “They are our brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ,
but complex historic situations have made us like this,” separated for
more than a millennium.

“Friendship. Walk together, pray for each other, and do
works of charity together when you can,” he said. “This is ecumenism.”

From the meeting at the Church of the Assumption near the
center of town, Pope Francis went to Temka, a much poorer neighborhood on the
outskirts of Tbilisi. He visited a clinic and rehabilitation center run by the
Order of St. Camillus that is set in the midst of towering, flaking concrete
apartment blocks from the Soviet era.

Before the pope arrived, local children — some with
professional-level talents — sang and danced for the crowd. But, no matter the
skill level, everyone was rewarded with thundering applause.

Staff and volunteers of from Caritas Georgia and the
Missionaries of Charity sisters who care for the patients with more severe
handicaps joined the Camillian fathers and their benefactors in welcoming the

Pope Francis told those facing physical challenges,
“God never turns away; he is always close to you, ready to listen, to give
you his strength in times of difficulty.

“You are the beloved of Jesus, who wished to identify
himself with all who suffer,” the pope said.

To the staff and volunteers, Pope Francis said works of
service and charity are “a witness to communion and a means of fostering
the way of unity.”

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