Pope Francis. (AP)
-- Although Pope Francis was named Person of the Year by the homosexual magazine The Advocate
, which supports same-sex marriage, he repeated the Church's teaching on marriage on Friday, stating that it is a "lifelong covenant between one man and one woman."
The Pope also said that real marriage fosters an environment that helps people steer away "from illusory notions of sexual freedom," and noted that "abortion compunds the grief of many women" who have succumbed to the "pressures of a secular culture which devalues God's gift of sexuality."
Pope Francis made his remarks in an Apr. 25 address
to the Catholic bishops of South Africa who were making an ad limina,
or obligatory, visit to the Pope at the Vatican. Such visits are required of all bishops at certain times.
To strengthen families and communities, the Pope said, "[t]he holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples."
"Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman," he said. "[I]t entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity."
Pope Francis also spoke about how many Catholic families are having fewer children and how this contributes to a decline in the number of young men to pursue the priesthood and young women to enter religious life.
Contributing to this problem is abortion, he said.
"Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn," said Pope Francis.
"In addition, the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment," he said. "We also observe with great concern, and can only deplore, an increase in violence against women and children."
"All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole," said the Pope.
There are 25 bishops
who oversee the Catholic community in South Africa, which is comprised of about 3.3 million Catholics.