Pope Francis greets journalists as he arrives with Brazilian Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis for a meeting of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 20.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

Pope Francis greets journalists as he arrives with Brazilian Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis for a meeting of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 20.

March 3, 2014
CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

VATICAN CITY – Opening a two-day meeting of the world's cardinals, Pope Francis said the Church's pastoral approach to helping couples must be "intelligent, courageous and full of love."

The family today, the pope said, is "looked down upon and mistreated."

"Our reflection must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality, which is so simple, yet so rich, made up of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings," the pope told the cardinals Feb. 20.

Pope Francis told them their two days of discussions would focus on the family.

The family, he said, "is the basic cell of human society. From the beginning, the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply," being a reflection of God, one and triune, in the world.

FAMILY MISTREATED

While many in the world today look down on and even mistreat the family, Pope Francis said, the Church must help people recognize "how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family."

The Church must also find better ways to help Catholic couples live God's "magnificent plan for the family."

The cardinals' two-day discussion with Pope Francis was introduced by retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

In the early 1990s, while Kasper was a diocesan bishop, he and two other German bishops tried to institute a policy that in certain circumstances would allow divorced and civilly remarried couples to return to the sacraments even without an annulment.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forced the bishops to drop the plan.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Kasper encouraged the cardinals to look for a path that was neither too strict nor too lenient.

He called for a "penitential path and the sacrament of Penance" which would offer possible solutions for helping the divorced and civilly remarried return to the sacraments.