Address to the Italian Association of Large Families

Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!

Before anything I have a question, a curiosity. Tell me: at what time did you wake up today? At 6? At 5? And you are not sleepy? Well with this address, I will make you fall asleep!

I am happy to meet you on the 10thmeeting of the association that reunites large families in Italy. We see that you love the family and you love life! And it is beautiful to give thanks to the Lord for this day in which we celebrate the Holy Family.

Today's gospels shows us Mary and Joseph who bring the Child Jesus to the Temple, and there they find two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, who prophecy on the Child. It is the image of a "large" family, a bit like your families, where different generations meet and help each other. I thank Archbishop Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, - an expert in doing these things – who has desired this moment and Bishop Beschi, who has strongly collaborated to create and make your Association grow, which blossomed in the city of Blessed Paul VI, Brescia.

You have come with the most beautiful fruits of your love. Motherhood and fatherhood are a gift from God, but to receive the gift, to wonder at its beauty and to make it shine in society, that is your task. Each one of your children is a unique creature that will never be repeated again in the history of humanity. When this is understood, that each one has been willed by God, one is amazed at how a child is a great miracle! A child changes life! All of us – men and women – have seen how life changes when a child arrives, it is another thing. A child is a miracle that changes life. You, boys and girls, are precisely this: each one of you is a unique fruit of love, you come from love and grow in love. You are unique, but not alone! And the fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you: the sons and daughters of a large family are more capable of fellowship from early childhood. In a world often marked by selfishness, the large family is a school of solidarity and sharing; and this attitude then becomes a benefit for the whole society.

You, children and youth, you are the fruits of the tree that is the family: you are good fruits when the tree has good roots – which are the grandparents – and a good trunk –which are the parents. Jesus said that every good tree bears good fruits and every bad tree bears bad fruit (cfr Mt. 7,17). The great human family is like a forest, where the good trees bear solidarity, communion, trust, support, security, happy sobriety, friendship. The presence of large families is a hope for society. And for this reason, the presence of grandparents is very important: a precious presence for both practical help and above all, educational support. Grandparents preserve in themselves the values of a people, of a family, and help parents to transmit them to children. In the last century, in many countries of Europe, the grandparents were those who transmitted the faith: they secretly brought the child to receive Baptism and transmitted the faith to them.

Dear parents, I am grateful to you for the example of love towards life, that you preserve from conception to natural end, despite all the difficulties and burdens of life, and that unfortunately, the public institutions do not always help you. You rightly remembered that article 31 of the Italian Constitution, asks for particular attention to large families; but this is not adequately reflected in the facts. It remains in words. Therefore, I hope, also thinking of the low birth rate that has long been in Italy, for a greater focus on policy and administrators on a public level, in order to give due support to these families. Each family is a cell of society, but large families are a more rich cell, more vibrant, and the State has an interest in investing in it.

Therefore, we welcome the families meeting in this association– like this Italian one and those of other European countries represented here -, and we welcome a network of family associations capable of being present and visible in society and in politics. In this regard, St. John Paul II wrote: "Families should grow in awareness of being 'protagonists' of what is known as 'family politics' and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference." (Familiaris consortio, 44)

The commitment that the family associations develop in the various national and local "Forums", is precisely that of promoting in society and in the laws of the State the values and needs of the family. We also welcome the ecclesial movements, in which you members of large families are particularly present and active. I always thank the Lord in seeing mothers and fathers of large families, together with their children, engaged in the life of the Church and society. For my part, I am close to you through prayers, and I place you all under the protection of the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. And a beautiful news is that in Nazareth, a house for families is being built for families around the world who go as pilgrims where Jesus grew in age, wisdom and grace (cfr. Lk. 2,40).

I pray in particular for the families who are most tested by the economic crisis, those where the father or mother have lost their job, - and this is hard – where the youth have been unable to find [work]; the families tried by love ones and those tempted to give in to loneliness and division.

Dear friends, dear parents, dear youth, dear children, dear grandparents, happy feast day to all of you. May each one of your families be always rich in the tenderness and consolation of God. I affectionately bless you. And please, continue to pray for me, because in a way I’m like a grandfather for all of you. Pray for me! Thank you.

[Translation by Junno Arocho Estev. ZENIT]

- Pope Francis is Pope of the Catholic Church since March 13, 2013.