Pope Francis with the group of pilgrims from Asti  (Vatican Media)

By Joseph Tulloch

May 6 2023

Speaking to pilgrims from the Italian Diocese of Asti, where his ancestors hail from, Pope Francis says the love of Christ represents the most important bond of a Christian family.

Pope Francis on Friday addressed a group of pilgrims from the Italian Diocese of Asti, reflecting with them on how Jesus revolutionises our understanding of the family.

He had chosen the topic because he himself has relatives in the northern Italian region, where his father was born and many of his mother’s family had roots.

Visit to Asti a “consolation”

The Pope began by recalling his visit to Asti in November of last year.

“That day and a half which I spent with you,” he said, “was a consolation. A moment of real human warmth.”

The Holy Father said that he remembered his stay in the northern Italian town above all as a time with family, understood “in a broad sense”: he had been able to spend time with his relatives, but also with the “family” of the local Church and the civic community.

Jesus and the family revolution

“Family” thus became the focus of the Pope’s address to the group of pilgrims.

It is a reality, he said, which “has changed so much, and is still changing”, but nevertheless “remains a key value”.

Despite its continual evolution, however, Pope Francis stressed, the real change in our understanding of the family has come not from modern developments but from Jesus himself, who told his disciples that “whoever does the will of my Father is my brother, sister, and mother.”

“These words of Jesus,” the Holy Father said, “if we think seriously about them, create a new way of understanding family.” The most important bond for Christians, that is, is “no longer that of blood, but the love of Christ.”

Noting that he had begun his speech by addressing those present as “brothers and sisters”, the Pope said that “this is not just a formula, a conventional expression. No. It’s a reality, a new reality generated by Jesus Christ.”

Fratelli tutti

This new sense of family, Pope Francis said, is also reflected in the phrase “Fratelli tutti” (“Siblings all”), the name given to a new outpatients’ clinic in Asti, dedicated to the service of the most needy.

The phrase was also the title of an encyclical letter written by the Pope in 2020, dedicated to fraternity and social friendship.

As the “Fratelli tutti” clinic in Asti shows, the Holy Father concluded, fraternity is not just a “nice saying, an ideal for dreamers. It has a foundation, Jesus Christ, who made us all brothers and sisters, and it has a way, the Gospel, which is the way of walking in love, in service, in forgiveness.” – Vatican News