Broken marriages are not mechanical problems

Pope Francis addressing participants of a course organised by the Sacra Rota

Cases of broken marriages cannot be treated with a merely bureaucratic, almost mechanical approach. Rather, it is a matter of entering into the lives of people who suffer and who thirst for serenity and happiness, both personally and as a couple.

Pope Francis made this statement to participants in a course organized by the Roman Rota on Protection of Marriage and Pastoral Care for suffering couples.

The theme of the course unites two crucial areas of concern: the protection of marriage and the pastoral care of wounded couples.

The Pope said that unconsciously we are immediately attracted by the second aspect, because it is first of all here that the care and maternal concern of the Church, of yesterday and today, manifests itself in the face of the different painful situations that a married couple may encounter along its way.

Wounds of marriage

“The wounds of marriage today – we know – have many and varied causes: psychological, physical, environmental, cultural – at times they are provoked by the closing of the human heart to love, by the sin that touches everyone. I will not dwell on this. I would just like to say that these causes carve deep and bitter furrows in the hearts of the people involved, bleeding wounds, before which the Church will never be able to pass by, turning her face the other way.

“That is why the Church, when it encounters these realities of wounded couples, first of all weeps and suffers with them; it approaches with the oil of consolation, to soothe and heal; it wants to take on board the pain she encounters. And if, then, it strives to be impartial and objective in seeking the truth of a broken marriage, the Church is never extraneous either humanly or spiritually to those who suffer. It never manages to be impersonal or cold in the face of these sad and troubled stories of life.

“For this reason, even in her canonical and jurisprudential procedures, the Church always and only seeks the good of the wounded, seeks the truth of their love; it has nothing in mind other than to sustain their just and desired happiness, which, before being a personal good to which we all humanly aspire, is a gift that God reserves for His children and that comes from Him.

Holy Spirit

“That is why every ecclesiastical procedure that faces an injured marriage, is not something mathematical, simply to see which reason weighs more than the other. No. There is the Holy Spirit that must guide the case, always. If the Holy Spirit is not there, what we do is not ecclesial.

“You considered the attentive and vigilant care of the Church so that the marriage of Christian spouses might be what the Lord Jesus wanted it to be so that the Father’s will to make the whole of humanity the family of God may be fulfilled.

“Even if marriage can fill Christian spouses with joy and human and spiritual fullness, they must never forget that they are called, as individuals and as a couple, to walk always in faith, to walk in the Church and with the Church, to walk together in the way of holiness. In fact, in the New Testament Christian marriage is lived as a journey of faith, as the intimate union of the spouses who are the “pillars” of the domestic Church.

“It is from this journey in the Spirit, from His light that warms and satisfies the human heart, that the precious and indispensable ministry of the spouses in the Church is born, which is increasingly needed today in our parish and diocesan communities. A ministry originating from the Sacrament; a missionary ministry that proclaims that Christ is alive and working; a ministry that generously calls to life new creatures, new children of God.


“This Sacrament cannot be improvised. It is necessary to prepare oneself as an engaged couple. It is not enough for Christian betrothed couples to prepare themselves to become married by achieving a good integration, in psychological, affective and relational terms and with regard to planning, which is also necessary for the stability of their future union. They must also nourish and progressively increase within themselves that specific call to model themselves as Christian spouses.

“It is the Second Vatican Council, the Magisterium of the Church, but first of all it is the Word of God that points to this high apostolic and missionary goal inherent in the Sacrament of Marriage. And it is by looking at this horizon that engaged couples can grow, nourishing themselves with prayer, with the Eucharist and Reconciliation, with sincere concern for one another, with dedication to the brothers they meet.

“The Church, in her parochial structure, is truly a community of families, called to become, witnesses of the Gospel in that territory. And here too, it is the Holy Spirit Who performs this synergy, and therefore the Spirit must be invoked, also for this apostolic process, which is not easy, but not impossible”, concluded the Pope.