"The Joy of Love", Pope Francis between the ideal and the real

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
11 Apr 2016

Amoris Laetitia is the second Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis' pontificate

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, 'The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family' was released on Friday.

A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office, by a panel composed of Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP, archbishop of Vienna; and married couple Francesco Miano, professor of moral philosophy at the University of Tor Vergata, Rome and Giuseppina De Simone, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.

Cardinal Baldisseri explained that the title Amoris Laetitia is in continuity with Evangelii Gaudium, 'The Joy of the Gospel,' which was the title of Pope Francis' previous Apostolic Exhortation. "From the joy of the Gospel to the joy of love in the family", Cardinal Baldisseri said.

Cardinal Baldisseri explained that the key to reading the exhortation, in harmony with the current Jubilee Year of Mercy is "the logic of pastoral mercy". "The Holy Father clearly affirms the doctrine on marriage and the family and he proposes it as an indispensable ideal. … On the other hand, the Pope does not overlook the fragility of families and even their failure … making room for the Lord's mercy, which spurs us on to do our best," he said.

The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has chosen the image of a tree to represent the themes within Amoris Laetitia, with the image reflecting the changes and journey through marriage and family life.

The tree with its growth, changing leaves and various branches reflects the light and dark of family life.  No family or marriage is perfect, but we are all encouraged "to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy." (Amoris Laetitia, n. 5).  Pope Francis said this in Amoris Laetitia, "Every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world' (n. 66).

Archbishop Mark Coleridge was one of Australia's representatives at last year's Synod on the Family

The family, like the changing seasons for a tree, experiences death (the falling leaves) and new life.

Similarly, the different colours running throughout the banner metaphorically represent the shades of family life.  The colours also resemble the different characters, personalities, joys, hopes, strengths and weakness that can be present in the family.

Speaking on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, said that Pope Francis has spoken as a true pastor who really knows the human heart and is well aware of the pressures now facing marriage and the family.

"The Pope moves between the ideal and the real, offering the Church's vision of marriage and the family but also dealing with the facts on the ground that can be messy," Archbishop Coleridge said.

In the document, the Holy Father sees marriage and the family in dynamic terms, writing of them as a journey.  "The Synod process", he notes, "allowed for an examination of the situation of families in today's world", opening up "a broader vision" and a renewed awareness of the importance of marriage and the family, which is counter cultural in today's society.

Pope Francis does not shy away from complex and controversial issues including divorce, abortion, domestic violence, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and gender ideology. He stresses the need to care for the most vulnerable in society, especially the elderly, people with disabilities and migrants.

He also cites favourably the Don't Mess With Marriage pastoral letter released last year by the Australian Bishops, saying that "every child has a right to receive love from a mother and a father; both are necessary for a child's integral and harmonious development."  "As the Australian Bishops have observed," he continued, "each of the spouses 'contributes in a distinct way to the upbringing of a child. Respecting a child's dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to have a mother and a father.'"

The tree symbol was chosen by the Australian Bishops to evoke the key themes in Amoris Laetitia

"The Pope's words are both high-visioned and home-spun, at times soaring but often down-to-earth. They summon the Church to accompany people on their journey, listen to them and help them discern the truth of their situation, and discover where God is in the mess," Archbishop Coleridge said.

The full text of the Amoris Laetitia, as well as a summary of the document and an opinion editorial from Archbishop Mark Coleridge can be downloaded from the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference website: