Vatican City, Feb 18, 2015 / 00:57 am
In this week's general audience, Pope Francis spoke on the role of siblings in family life, saying the fraternity we learn from them teaches us how to overcome barriers and leads to greater freedom.
"With Jesus, this bond of brotherhood expands to overcome any difference of nation, language, culture or religion," the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square Feb. 18.
There is no greater compliment than to say of another "he is like a brother to me, or she is like a sister," he said, explaining that without the value of fraternity, "the freedom and equality achieved by many people become full of individualism and conformity and personal interest too."
Pope Francis offered his reflections as part of his ongoing catechesis on the family. After spending the past three weeks looking at the role of both mothers and fathers, he turned his gaze to the importance of brothers and sisters.
To grow up in a family alongside other children is a "profound human experience" that reaches its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who became our brother and made us all children of God the Father, he said.
Fraternity was an essential value for the People of God, Francis noted, and pointed to how this brotherhood is even praised in Scripture when the author of Psalm 132 says, "How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!"
However the rupture in fraternity which takes place when Cain murders his brother Abel "opens a deep chasm in man," the Pope said, and God's question to Cain, "Where is your brother?" has not ceased to resonate throughout history.
Contrary to Cain's response, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Francis explained that we are indeed our brother's keeper within the human family, and God's question proves it.
He said that it is within the family that we first learn how to open ourselves to others and become good brothers and sisters. What we learn from them then goes on to benefit society as a whole.
As the first place we learn to live a fraternal coexistence, our relationship with our siblings serves as "an ideal for any relationship within society and between peoples," the Pope said, noting that this bond reaches its fulfillment with Jesus.
Francis explained that it is Jesus who gives us the grace to see each person as a brother or sister and to reconcile differences and divisions. Jesus, he said, also offers to us the promise of true freedom and equality, which are maintained by this brotherhood.
The virtue of brotherhood shines even brighter "when the family has a weaker, sick or disabled brother or sister, and the others care for them with such affection," the Pope observed.
He said that "having a brother, a sister, who loves you is a powerful, priceless, irreplaceable experience," and explained that the Christian community is also called to care for the poor and needy in society with the same tenderness and affection.
Francis closed his address by praying that our "often impersonal societies" learn how to foster this spirit of fraternity, and asked that families around the world would come to appreciate "the great blessing of God found in our young" who both love and are loved as brothers and sisters.
Before concluding, the Pope asked that all of the faithful present pause for a moment of silence to remember their own brothers and sisters.
"With this prayer we have brought all of our brothers and sisters here in our hearts to this square for a blessing," he said, and went on to greet pilgrims present from various countries around the world.
Pope Francis also asked for special prayers for the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS militants over the weekend, "for the mere fact of being Christians."
He prayed for all who have died or been wounded in various conflicts, especially refugees, and offered particular prayers for peace in the Middle East, North Africa and the Ukraine.
In addition, the Pope called on the international community to work together in finding peaceful solutions to the current crisis in Libya.