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Pope Francis: Large Families That Welcome Children Are A True Gift From God

Diane Montagna - published on 01/22/15

Follows footsteps of predecessors, denies large families are cause of poverty

At this morning’s Wednesday General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis told the faithful that large families that welcome children are a true gift from God. He also said “we need to defend families from new forms of ideological colonization which threaten its identity and mission.”

In his words to pilgrims, Pope Francis said “it is a consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift from God. They know that every child is a blessing.”

Papal Precedent

Of course, Pope Francis is not the first pontiff to extol the virtue and happiness present in a large family. Previous pontiffs have also singled out large families for fulsome praise. One of the most eloquent reflections on the beauty and joy of large families came from Venerable Pope Pius XII, who in in speaking to Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy in July 1958 said: “Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church.”

In the same address, Venerable Pope Pius XII spoke of the “serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives”.  He said: “The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.”

The pontiff also described the manifold benefits of children having many siblings: “When there are many children, the youngsters are spared the boredom of loneliness and the discomfort of having to live in the midst of adults all the time. It is true that they may sometimes become so lively as to get on your nerves, and their disagreements may seem like small riots; but even their arguments play an effective role in the formation of character, as long as they are brief and superficial. Children in large families learn almost automatically to be careful of what they do and to assume responsibility for it, to have a respect for each other and help each other, to be open-hearted and generous. For them, the family is a little proving ground, before they move into the world outside, which will be harder on them and more demanding.”

Cause of Poverty?

Reflecting on the highlights of his recent apostolic journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines at today’s Wednesday audience, Pope Francis drew special attention to his meeting with families last Friday in Manila. Some, he said, have suggested that “families with many children, and the birth of so many children, are among the causes of poverty.”

But this morning he called this opinion “simplistic”, and suggested that the real driver of poverty is an economic system which “has removed the human person from the center and has replaced him with the god of money.” 

“We are used to seeing people discarded,” he said. “This is the main reason for poverty, not large families.”

Senior Vatican Adviser for Communications, Greg Burke on Twitter today called the Pope’s remarks at the General Audience a "Rabbit-Reframe".

Here below we publish the full text of Pope Francis’ address.


Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. Today I will reflect on the Apostolic Journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines that I made last week. Following my visit to Korea some months ago, I again went to Asia, a continent rich in cultural and spiritual traditions. The journey was a joy-filled encounter with the Catholic communities that bear witness to Christ in those countries. I confirmed them in the faith and in their missionary endeavors. I will always treasure the memory of the joyous welcome of the crowds — indeed, in some cases oceanic — that accompanied the defining moments of the visit. I also encouraged interreligious dialogue in the service of peace, and the journey of those peoples toward unity and social development, especially with the active involvement of families and young people.

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