While climate change activists busily campaigned the Pope for support for their projects, Francis’s mind was elsewhere, reflecting on the importance of traditional marriage and the plight of women in the world.
Pope Francis began his Wednesday address by recalling Jesus’s first miracle: the production of a prodigious amount of quality wine at the wedding in Cana. As Francis put it, “Jesus not only took part in the marriage, but ‘saved the party’ with the miracle of wine!”
It was not by chance, Francis suggested, that Jesus chose the celebration of a marriage as the backdrop for his first miracle.
It was “a gesture of great sympathy for the family being born, urged by the maternal care of Mary,” he said. It also reminds us of the Book of Genesis, the Pope said, when God finishes the work of creation and creates his masterpiece “man and woman.”
Week after week, the Pope has doggedly repeated a message he considers essential for the contemporary world: marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
Jesus begins his own miracles “in a marriage, in a wedding party: a man and a woman. So Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and woman who love each other! This is a masterpiece!” he said Wednesday.
And even though since the time of the wedding at Cana many things have changed, Francis said, Christ’s sign contains “a message that is always valid.”
Marriage is hard, Francis acknowledged, citing the numbers of young people who choose to marry later or not at all. “In many countries the number of separations increases instead, while the number of children decreases,” he noted.
And when husbands and wives break up, the Pope continued, “their children are the first to suffer the consequences. Children are the first victims, the most important victims, and the victims who suffer most in a separation,” he said.
The result of so many divorces and separations, the Pope suggested, is that young people have a hard time thinking of marriage as a permanent and lasting bond. “I believe we need to think very seriously about why so many young people don’t want to marry,” he said. “We live in a culture of the temporary… everything seems provisional, and it seems that there is nothing permanent anymore.”
It’s a mistake to blame the crisis of marriage on “women’s liberation,” the Pope said. In fact, “almost all men and women would like a stable emotional security, a solid marriage and a happy family. The family is on top of all the levels of satisfaction among young people, but out of fear of failure, many do not even want to think about it,” he said.
Francis said that the most persuasive testimony of the blessing of Christian marriage is “the good life of Christian spouses and families.” Marriage consecrated by God “preserves the bond between man and woman that God has blessed since the creation of the world,” he said.
The testimony that attracts, he said, depends on the relationship between men and women and is “the way of reciprocity between them, the complementarity between them.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome