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Pope Francis Cites Struggles of Parents Raising Children With Challenges, Counsels: ‘Never Condemn a Child’

Pope Francis carries his crosier as he arrives in procession for an evening prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome Jan. 25, 2022. The service marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (Photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

By Inés San Martín

(Crux) — During his weekly Wednesday audience, Pope Francis spoke about the “suffering” of parents who have children with “diverse sexual orientation.”

“How to address this, how to accompany the children without hiding behind a condemning attitude,” Pope Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks.

He was speaking about the Gospel story of Joseph’s dreams, in which an archangel told him that the Virgin Mary was pregnant and later that they should flee to Egypt, and when it was safe to return home with Jesus. 

Last November, Pope Francis began dedicating his weekly Wednesday audience to reflecting on St. Joseph, whose life of faith the pope said offers a special example during a time of a global pandemic. He had declared 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph.

Fear, Pope Francis said, is a part of everyone’s life, and he added the power of prayer can combat that fear.

“When the Lord shows us a problem or reveals a problem, he always gives us the insight, the help, his presence, to get out of it, to solve it,” the pope said.

During his remarks, he dedicated an entire passage to the “so many people who are crushed by the weight of life and can no longer hope or pray. May St. Joseph help them to open up to dialogue with God, to find light, strength and help.”

“I am also thinking of parents faced with their children’s problems,” Pope Francis said. “Children with many illnesses, sick children, even with permanent illnesses: how much pain there is. Parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how [they] manage this and accompany the children without hiding behind a condemning attitude.”

The pope continued speaking about parents who see their children leaving, dying, because of an illness, and kids who do “things of youth” and end up in a car accident. Pope Francis listed many other “parental problems,” including children who don’t advance in school.

“Let’s think about how to help them,” Pope Francis said. “And to these parents I say, don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot of it. But think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”

Referring to his former archdiocese, the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, he remembered when he’d pass a prison while riding on a bus and see the many parents lined up to visit their children.

“Faced with the problem of a son who had made a mistake, who was in prison, they didn’t leave him alone, they put their faces to it and accompanied him,” he said.

The pontiff said never leaving one’s children alone, despite the challenges, takes courage.