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KOTA KINABALU – Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino unpacked a new vision of being church to the clergy and religious of Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese in a gathering with them on 2 May 2016 at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre here.
“The greatest benefit, for all families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully” (n.7). It (Amoris Laetitia) is for the entire church and offers profound reflections on love, marriage and family,” he said.
He was referring to what Pope Francis is proposing, in his exhortation The Joy of Love, as a new vision of being a church and a new way of dealing with complicated issues with regards to marriage and the family. The document on the family was released on 8 April 2016.
Archbishop Marino was in town for the Archdiocesan Kaamatan Festival celebration, which took place at Holy Family Church Telipok on May 2, and had an opportunity to meet with the clergy and religious on the same evening.
After making it clear that Pope Francis does not recommend a rushed reading of the text of his new document, he then attempted to share a bit about the Joy of Love.
He explained that the 256 pages of the document are divided into nine chapters namely: In the light of the Word, The experiences and challenges of families, Looking to Jesus: the vocation of the family, Love in marriage, Love made fruitful, Some pastoral perspectives, Towards a better education for children, Accompanying, Discerning and integrating weakness, and The spirituality of marriage and the family.
The nuncio quoted paragraph 5 of the document which states: “This exhortation is especially timely in this Jubilee of Mercy. First, because it represents an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience. Second, because it seeks to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family remains imperfect or lacks of peace and joy.”
From the exhortation, Abp Marino highlighted three main points. First is to go beyond rules. Pope Francis’ statement that “one size does not fit all” rejects any idea of articulating norms and rules to address the complex individual realities of people, which are so different and diverse, said Marino.
He added, the direction in which the Pope is bringing us to deal with questions facing marriages and the family is not by giving new norms and rules, but it will hesitate in over-idealising marriage and will refrain from condemning the world in which we live. It will be a call to go to the individuals, men and women, living in concrete and unique situations, as well as to go out and find those in need.
Second, continued the nuncio, is towards missionary creativity. While Pope Francis calls us to go beyond rules, idealised doctrine and wasting our time on judging and condemning, Marino said, he also points us to missionary creativity, which has its basis the recognition of the power of grace, that is the love of God who is with us in our journeys in life.
Pope Francis speaks of the law of gradualness, which will become a defining element when dealing with the question of divorce and remarried people in the Church. This recognises that the human being knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth whereby there is “a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate or fully carry out the objective demands of the law” (n.295).
In general, the nuncio said, we can say that we approach love, marriage and family as an adventure which implies growth and development, setbacks and failures, always with the presence of the grace of God which keeps us walking in the right direction.
Third, Marino said, are the agents of missionary creativity. He said that Pope Francis is proposing a new way by which we view married life and the family. Simply put, the pontiff points us to look at married life and the family not through mere doctrinal or theological lenses, which have the possibility to lead to general norms or law.
Rather, the Pope says, “We must look at individuals, those preparing for marriage, those who are married and those in irregular situations within the context of each of his or her singular situation.”
It seems that such work or ministry rests with the priests, which extends to the entire church and all her members, but with the priests remaining as the centre and guide of this important ministry.
Referring to this as the three elements of missionary and pastoral approach based on mercy: accompany, discern and integrate, Msgr Marino explained that Pope Francis is teaching us to minister to the brothers and sisters living in agonising situations by accompanying them, discerning with them, and reintegrating them.
According to Pope Francis, the nuncio said that priests have the duty to accompany (the divorced and remarried) in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop (n.300). The pontiff also encourages the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognise their proper place in the Church (n.312).
In closing the session, Abp Marino said that it is clear that Pope Francis has radically changed the way we approach those irregular and imperfect situations of marriage. The Holy Father sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope and above all integrate. Accordingly, that is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society (n.312). – Fr Rhobby Mojolou