Archbishop Eamon Martin says he can “only imagine” what it must be like for parents to hold their newborn baby in their arms for the first time.
The Derry-born primate of the Catholic Church in Ireland was speaking in Rome where the Synod of Bishops is currently taking place.
In his reflection on the theme of “tenderness”, Dr. Martin said that the “unique tender love” that unites husband, wife and newborn child is a reflection of the tenderness of God.
He added: “My 87 year old mother, who had twelve children, tells me, ‘Eamon, unless you experience it, you can’t explain it!’.”
“It makes a connection and leaves an imprint which remains even in the face of the awful realities that can feature in family life today - like violence, rejection, division, scandal, and hurt - realities which we pray about in our ‘Prayer for the Synod’.
“The Holy Father called on us recently to be ‘revolutionaries of tenderness’ but how difficult it must be for some families to keep tenderness alive.
“In our deliberations as a Synod of Bishops, let us not forget families which have experienced the trauma of abuse and domestic violence, those for whom the proclamation of what we call the ‘Good News’ of the family may mean little or nothing.
“The Church is sometimes described as a family of families. We know only too well the horrific impact of sins and crimes of abuse in the Church family: the betrayal of trust, the violation of dignity, the shame - both public and private, the anger and alienation, the wound that never seems to heal.
“Perhaps our catechesis about ‘tenderness’ in the Instrumentum Laboris needs to reflect more openly these awful realities that afflict too many families today - families who ask: Where is God in all this? What of justice? Where do we find forgiveness? How does mercy and tenderness fit in?”
The Synod of Bishops is taking place in Rome until October 25.