Pope Francis marries 20 couples in Rome

Pope Francis has presided over a Mass that included a wedding ceremony for 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome. The celebration in St Peter’s Basilica comes three weeks before the start of the Synod on the Family and is the first wedding that Francis has performed since being elected pope 18 months ago.

The last time that a pope presided over such a ceremony was in 2000, when it was performed by Pope St John Paul II. At the ceremony on 14 September, Pope Francis took each couple through their vows in turn.

"The people getting married on Sunday are couples like many others," a spokesperson for the diocese of Rome told Vatican Radio. "Some already live together, some already have children."

In his homily, Pope Francis compared marriage with a journey which a couple may be tempted to abandon at times of crisis. But, he said, "marriage is about a man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man.” 

The Sacrament of Love

“The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness,” said Pope Francis at the Mass in St Peter's. “They lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament.” To such couples, he said, God the Father gives his Son Jesus: “not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

“The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together,” the pope said.

Pope Francis acknowledged in his homily that the path of marriage is not always a smooth one and can be fraught with disagreements. “It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life!” He went on to offer the marrying couples some advice: “Never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not ‘fiction’! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.

"My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love," Francis concluded. "I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward.”

Photo credits: Above: AP. Right: Giampiero Sposito/Reuters. Translation of Pope Francis' homily: The Holy See