Pope Francis then turned to the differences between men and women, saying that parenthood is founded on the complimentarily of men and women, as the Bible reminds us.
The Pope said that when engaged couples come to him and tell him they want to get married, he always tells the man that his vocation is to make his wife "more of a woman," and tells the woman that her vocation is to make her husband "more of a man."
Communion in marriage comes from this "handcrafted work" of learning to love each other in one's differences, he said.
This complimentarily of spouses also helps children mature in their own identity when comparing the different ways their fathers and mothers love.
"Through the feminine figure we men learn to encounter in life the extraordinary beauty of women, and women (bring) similar things learning from the masculine figure that man is different, and has his way of feeling, thinking and living," the Pope noted.
Francis then spoke about families that are separated, and lamented that in modern society such scenarios "seem inevitable."
Even though parents have been separated due to wounds or problems, "the Church carries you in her heart, and your educative role is not interrupted," he observed.
He encouraged parents in separations to collaborate and look for agreements rather than resort to fighting, so as to ensure the happiness of their children.
"Please, don't use your children as hostages!" the Pope said, explaining that "it does so much damage" to children when their parents speak badly about one another.
To do this "is terrible, because that child, that boy or girl, grows up with a tension that they don't know how to resolve and they learn the ugly path of hypocrisy, to say…Never, never speak badly about each other, never!"
Forgiveness is an essential aspect to every marriage, the Pope said, and is something that must be practiced every day in order to carry out the family's mission of being collaborators in the work of the Holy Spirit.
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The Pope then turned to the role of grandparents, noting that the elderly constitute a fourth of Rome's population. Grandparents have a place of "dignity" in the family, and are a source of wisdom and memory, Francis said.
He noted that in many countries when practicing the faith was prohibited, it is the grandparents who have passed it on by teaching children prayers and taking them to be baptized in secret.
Instead of putting them in nursing homes, "don't be ashamed of grandparents! Don't be ashamed of the elderly," Pope Francis said. "They give us wisdom, prudence, which help us a lot."
He closed his address by encouraging spouses to deepen in their love for one another, and to always show their affection for each other, because it does their children good to see it.
Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.