Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated some family problems, Pope Francis has encouraged married couples to seek help and always remember three key words in a marriage: “Please, thanks and sorry.”
Francis penned a letter to married couples that was released on Sunday, a Roman Catholic feast day commemorating Jesus’s family. It came halfway through a yearlong celebration of the family announced by Francis that is due to conclude in June with a big rally in Rome.
In the letter, Francis said lockdowns and quarantines had forced families to spend more time together. But he noted that such enforced togetherness at times tested the patience of parents and siblings alike and in some cases led to difficulties.
“Pre-existing problems were aggravated, creating conflicts that in some cases became almost unbearable. Many even experienced the breakup of a relationship,” Francis wrote.
He offered his support to those families and reminded parents that the breakup of a marriage is particularly hard on children, who look to their parents as a constant source of stability, love, trust and strength.
“The breakdown of a marriage causes immense suffering, since many hopes are dashed, and misunderstandings can lead to arguments and hurts not easily healed,” Francis wrote.
“Children end up having to suffer the pain of seeing their parents no longer together.”
He urged parents to keep seeking help to try to overcome conflicts, including through prayer. “Remember also that forgiveness heals every wound,” he said.
He repeated a refrain he has often used when meeting with families and married couples, listing the three most important words in a marriage: “Please, thanks and sorry.”
“After every argument, don’t let the day end without making peace,” he wrote.
Francis bemoans falling birth rate
Also on Sunday, in his weekly address in front of St Peter’s Basilica, Francis bemoaned Italy’s plunging birth rate, warning that the decline represented a threat to the future of the country.
Births in Italy last year hit their lowest level since the unification of the nation in 1861, the national statistics office said this month, with the figure falling for a 12th consecutive year.
“The demographic winter is a real worry, at least here in Italy,” the pope said.
“It seems that a lot of people have lost the wish to have children. Lots of couples prefer to remain childless or to have one child only. … It’s a tragedy … which runs counter to our families, our country and our future,” he added.
There were 404,892 births in Italy last year, the ISTAT statistics office said, down 15,192 from 2019. There were 746,146 deaths in 2020 as the population fell to 59.3 million.
ISTAT said the slump in births had continued this year, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be a factor in the decline.