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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

General audience: Brother, sister: words beloved to Christianity

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Continuing his cycle of catechesis dedicated to the family, after reflecting on the figure of the mother and father, the Pope today spoke about fraternity. “'Brother' and 'sister' are words that Christianity loves. And, thanks to the family, they are words that all cultures and all ages understand”.

Fraternal bonds are very important in the history of the people of God, and are highly praised in the Old Testament. However their rupture opened up a deep abyss in mankind, and God's question to Cain - “Where is your brother?” - never ceases to resonate throughout history. “And”, exclaimed the Pontiff, “unfortunately, in this generation too, Cain's dramatic answer is also repeated endlessly: “I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?”. The rupture of the bond between brothers disfigures humanity. And even within families, how many brothers argue over small things, an inheritance, and then no longer even speak to or greet each other? If we think that they inhabited the womb of the same mother …. We all know families in which there are divisions between brothers. Let us pray to the Lord for them, to help brothers be reunited and families rebuilt. And let us always keep these divided brothers in our prayers”.

The bond of fraternity that is formed in the family, among children, if it occurs a climate of education in openness to others, “is the great school of freedom and peace. Perhaps we are not always aware of this, but it is precisely the family that introduces fraternity into the world”, remarked the Pope, emphasising that from this first experience, fraternity “radiates like a promise to the whole of society and the relations between peoples. And the blessing that God – in Jesus Christ – lavishes upon this bond of fraternity, extends it unimaginably, making it capable of surpassing any difference of nation, culture or even religion”.

He added, “Think about what becomes of the bond between men, even the most diverse, when they are able to say of another, 'he is just like a brother, she is just like a sister to me'. History has demonstrated sufficiently that even liberty and equality, without fraternity, can be filled with individualism, conformism and personal interest”.

Fraternity in the family shines in a special way “when we see the care, patience, and affection that surround those brothers and sisters who are weak, sick, or disabled. Having a brother or a sister who cares for you is a powerful experience, priceless and irreplaceable. The same applies to the Christian family. We must be moved to tenderness by the smallest, the weakest, the poorest: they have a 'right' to capture our heart and soul. Yes, they are our brothers and we must love them and treat them as such. When this happens, when it is as if the poor are part of the family, our Christian fraternity comes to life. Indeed, Christians go towards the poor and the weak not in obedience to an ideological programme, but because the word and example of the Lord tell us that they are our brothers. This is the principle of God's love and of all justice between men”.

“And now I suggest one thing”, he added, off the cuff: “in silence, each of us, let us think of our brothers and sisters, and pray for them”. St. Peter's Square remained in silence for a moment, after which Francis added, “With this prayer we brought all of them, our brothers and sisters, here in the square to be blessed”.

“Today, more than ever, it is necessary to bring fraternity back to the centre of our technocratic and bureaucratic society: then liberty and equality will also acquire the correct tone. Therefore, let us not light-heartedly deprive our families, through apprehension or fear, of the beauty of a full fraternal experience. And lot us not lose our trust in the broad horizon that faith is able to draw from this experience, enlightened by God's blessing”.

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