Pope Francis is urging families to put aside their iPhones and Twitter feeds and learn to talk to one another again.
In his annual message for the church’s World Day of Communications, released Friday, the Pope said media can both help or hinder family communication – helping far-flung members stay in touch but also enabling others to avoid one another.
“The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information,” the Pope said.
The theme of this year’s message coincides with the Pope’s two-year focus on families, which will culminate in October with a big meeting of bishops to hash out better ways to minister to families living with divorce, de-facto unions, gay children and other issues. The Pope said children first learn to communicate in the family, figuring out how to get along with people of different ages and experience.
As a result, he said, families are the model for all communications since it is in the family where children first learn to forgive.
“A perfect family does not exist,” he said. “We should not be fearful of imperfections, weaknesses or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively.”
The Pope referred to families on Friday in a separate speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal which handles annulment cases. He called for church tribunals around the globe to offer annulment services for free, saying all Catholics have the right to justice from the church.
“Sacraments are free,” he said. The Pope also said tribunal judges should take into account that ignorance of the faith can be a reason to declare a marriage invalid.
The Pope has previously quoted his predecessor as Buenos Aires archbishop as saying half of the marriages that are celebrated are essentially invalid because people enter into them not realizing that matrimony is a lifelong commitment.