During his time in the Holy Land, Francis has given a particular focus in his public statements to the fundamental cell of society and its components.
Besides being an occasion for strengthening the bonds between peoples and religions, Pope Francis has also used the trip to the Holy Land as an opportunity to speak to the world on the family and the dignity of human life. These themes were highlighted in a few of his public statements - above all during the Regina Coeli of Sunday 25 May, where the Holy Father expressed sentiments of solidarity with the Christian community of Galilee and Nazareth, the city of the Holy Family:
«Contemplating the Holy Family here in Bethlehem, my thoughts turn spontaneously to Nazareth, which I hope to visit, God willing, on another occasion. From this place I embrace with affection the Christian faithful living in Galilee and I express my support for the building of the International Centre for the Family in Nazareth».
In Jerusalem Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, made a particular reference to marriage and family in the joint declaration of their ecumenical encounter. They communicated that:
«Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or emarginated».
Also in the West Bank, in meeting with the disable children in Bethany, Pope Francis requested prayers for peace and for those most weak in our society:
«Dear young people, I ask you to join me in praying for peace. You can do this by offering your daily efforts and struggles to God; in this way your prayer will become particularly precious and effective. I also encourage you to assist, through your generosity and sensitivity, in building a society which is respectful of the vulnerable, the sick, children and the elderly. Despite your difficulties in life, you are a sign of hope. You have a place in God’s heart, you are in my prayers. I am grateful that so many of you are here, and for your warmth, joy and enthusiasm. Thank you!»
During his Homily in the Manger Square in Bethlehem, very near to the Grotto of the Nativity, the Holy Father recalled that:
«The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the sign given by God to those who awaited salvation, and he remains forever the sign of God’s tenderness and presence in our world. The angel announces to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child…”.
Today too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human. Here we can think of the work carried out by the Ephpheta Paul VI institute for hearing and speech impaired Palestinian children: it is a very real sign of God’s goodness. It is a clear sign that society is healthier.
To us, the men and women of the twenty-first century, God today also says: “This will be a sign for you”, look to the child…
The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children. He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception».