Pope Francis has encouraged married couples to always remember three key words in their relationship: “Please, thanks and sorry.”
Acknowledging that the pandemic has aggravated some family problems, Francis wrote a letter to married couples that was released on Sunday, a Catholic feast day commemorating the family of Jesus.
It comes halfway through a year-long celebration of the family announced by Francis that is due to conclude in June with a large rally in Rome.
Speaking at his studio window on Sunday, Francis said he intended the letter to be his “Christmas present to married couples”.
He urged them to keep having children to fight the “demographic winter” which, in Italy, has led to one of the lowest birthrates in the world.
“Maybe we aren’t born into an exceptional, problem-free family, but our family is our story – everyone has to think: It’s my story,” he said. “They are our roots: If we cut them, life dries up!”
In the letter, Francis said lockdowns and quarantines had forced families to spend more time together.
He noted that such enforced togetherness had 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,” he wrote.
“Many even experienced the break-up of a relationship.”
He offered his closeness to those families and reminded parents that the break-up of a marriage was particularly hard on children, who he said looked 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,” he said.
“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.
Reiterating the importance of saying sorry, he added: “After every argument, don’t let the day end without making peace.”