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Editorial: Focus on family

  • January 7, 2021

In his own way, Pope Francis is developing a different kind of vaccine to battle the effects of COVID-19. This is not a vaccine developed in a scientific lab, but it may well be a much-needed antidote to some of the unseen but crippling injuries that have accompanied the pandemic.

There’s one not-so-secret ingredient the Pope is relying on — family.

With the fifth anniversary of Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) approaching in March, the Pope is dedicating a year of renewed focus on family life, which has been subjected to unprecedented strains — economic, physical and psychological — during these past 10 months.

Perhaps not coincidently, the Pope has doubled down on the family-as-healer theme by declaring the Year of St. Joseph, that quintessential father figure, to mark the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph becoming patron saint of the universal Church. His significance to Canada has an even longer history, given the patron designation here in 1624 by Recollect Franciscan missionaries.

These declarations, significant on their own, take on even greater importance for a world that is searching for stability amid the Earth-shaking reality of the pandemic.

We have been inundated with the daily statistics of those who have died or are suffering from the virus. Equally alarming are the statistics that emerge of families in crisis, whether it be through job loss or the tensions that go with isolation.

A Statistics Canada report in September noted that while overall police-reported incidents were down during the first wave of the pandemic, domestic disturbance calls were up 12 per cent from the previous year. Around the globe, reports of domestic violence have intensified to the point that the United Nations has called it a “shadow pandemic.”

Against this backdrop, Pope Francis is pushing family life values to the forefront, using the Feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 27 to announce the Amoris Laetitia anniversary initiatives. “We are called to rediscover the educational value of the family unit,” he said. “It must be founded on the love that always regenerates relationships, opening up horizons of hope.”

A release from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life put the project in perspective: “The pandemic experience has highlighted the central role of the family as the domestic Church and has shown the importance of community ties between families, which make the Church an authentic ‘family of families.’”

It’s easy to be cynical about such proclamations when the world is scrambling just to survive long enough for vaccines to save the day. But vaccines are only one solution to what ails us.

Yes, there are families that will emerge stronger after this pandemic. Then there are many others that will be left broken or destroyed in its wake.

Protecting and nourishing the spiritual and emotional health of families has never been more vital. The Pope’s year-long initiatives can prove to be just the prescription we need.

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