Catholics in the Diocese of Portsmouth will have an invaluable opportunity this May to venerate the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux's parents, a saintly married couple, ahead of the upcoming Synod on the Family.

"To focus our prayers in the lead-up to the Synod, I have invited to the Diocese the relics of Blessed Louis and Blessed Zélie Martin, one of the first married couples ever to be beatified," wrote Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a pastoral letter that will be read at parishes this weekend.  

"May the prayers of this saintly married couple…renew us with the joy of the Gospel," he wrote.

The relics of Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin will be in Portsmouth May 20-22. The relics have a special connection to the upcoming Synod on the Family because they were also available for veneration at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last October.

The relics of Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin will also visit the Diocese of Plymouth in May.

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Egan of Portsmouth lamented that fatherhood and marriage are in crisis.

The bishop wrote that in the U.K., 42 percent of marriages end in divorce and nearly half of the children are born outside of marriage. The majority of children live in single-parent homes that are disproportionately led by single mothers.

"Over a million children now grow up without contact with their fathers," he wrote. "Yet, as Pope Francis says, every child has a fundamental human right to be brought up by both a father and a mother. Every child has the right to grow up in a family capable of creating a good environment for their emotional development."

"The abandonment of the traditional religious culture of family and marriage – a loving, monogamous, covenantal relationship of one man and one woman with the procreative purpose of raising children – has resulted in revolution, Francis adds, that has brought "spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.""

"In other words, the 'gender wars' are causing poverty," Bishop Egan wrote. "We need a new human ecology."

Bishop Egan encouraged faithful in the Diocese of Portsmouth to intercede to Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin on behalf of the upcoming Synod on the Family.

"Please pray for its success, for our families and married couples, and for those in difficulty," he wrote. "Pray too that the Synod will help us all receive afresh the Good News of Christ on the complementarity of being male and female, on the vocation to marriage and on the joy of Christian family life."

"May it inspire us to find new means of witnessing to the 'natural way of life'," Bishop Egan wrote.

The bishop also offered Saint Joseph as a model of fatherhood.

"St. Joseph played a key part in all the events of Christmas … But this fine husband, Guardian of the Incarnate Word, also played a key role in the hidden years of Jesus' home life in Nazareth: His childhood, His upbringing, His human development."

"In Joseph, the self-sacrificing father-son relationship would surely have run so deep, that in this profoundly good man, Jesus would have recognised a beautiful icon of His heavenly Father."