VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked families to pray for the success of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization," which will take place at the Vatican in October.
In a letter to the world's families, released by the Vatican Feb. 25, the pope wrote that the synod would be dedicated to the "challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the church."
Pope Francis has said the synod will take up the subject of church teaching and practice on marriage, including the eligibility of divorced and civilly married Catholics to receive Communion -- an issue he has said exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church today.
In his letter, the pope noted the October gathering would be followed by an ordinary Synod of Bishops on the same subject next year, and by the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015. Pope Francis is expected to travel to Philadelphia for the latter event.
"In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages and times of mutual support," the pope wrote. "Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus."
In a message released by the Vatican, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, wrote that Pope Francis "looks at families with the gratitude of one who discerns the work of God accomplished through the love of man and woman, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brother and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren."
The archbishop, whose office is helping organize the Philadelphia gathering, wrote that the pope "asks Christian families to feel the responsibility of their mission in this time of ours, so confused and disquieting."