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Pope to grieving parents: Don’t put a “silencer” on your suffering

Pope Francis blesses the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 03/06/24

God wants "to dry your tears and wants to reassure you: Death does not have the last word. The Lord does not leave you without consolation."

“In suffering, God’s first response is not a speech or a theory, but it is him walking with us, him being with us.” These are some of the words of comfort that Pope Francis offered a group of Italian parents who have lost a child. The Holy Father met with the group on March 2, 2024, at the Vatican. He encouraged the parents to reach out to God and ask questions in their grief, in order to be able to find the light and strength to go forward. 

“There is no worse thing than silencing pain, putting a silencer on suffering, removing trauma without coming to terms with it, as our world often induces us to do in the rush and daze,” the Pope reflected. “The question that rises to God as a cry, on the other hand, is beneficial. It is prayer.” 

The Pope was meeting with members of the Talita Kum Association based in Vicenza, northern Italy, that specializes in accompanying parents who have lost a child. Francis asked that his speech be read out by a secretary, as he was still affected by bronchitis. 

The pain of losing a child

“The first thing I wish is to look into your faces, welcome with open arms your pain-scarred stories and offer a caress to your heart, broken and pierced like that of Jesus on the cross: a bleeding heart, a heart bathed in tears and torn apart by a heavy sense of emptiness,” the Pope offered.

“The loss of a child is an experience that does not accept theoretical descriptions and rejects the banality of religious or sentimental words, of sterile encouragements, […] which while they would like to console end up hurting even more those who, like you, face a hard inner battle every day.”

Reach out to God and he will extend his hand

However, Francis encouraged the parents not to lose hope in their grief and to keep reaching out to God in any way, as a route to open their hearts to Him.

Pain, especially when it is so excruciating and without explanation, only needs to cling to a thread of prayer that cries out to God day and night, that sometimes expresses itself in the absence of words, that does not attempt to resolve the drama but, on the contrary, inhabits questions that always come back: “Why, Lord? Why did this happen to me? Why did you not intervene? Where are you while humanity suffers and my heart mourns an unbridgeable loss?”

“Brothers and sisters, these questions, which burn inside, disturb the heart; at the same time, however, if we set out, as you do with much courage and effort, it is precisely these suffering questions that open glimmers of light, which give the strength to move forward,” the Pope explained.

These questions that “force one to dig inside a painful memory and mourn the loss” become “the first step” to receiving the “consolation and inner peace that the Lord does not fail to give.”

The Lord comes to lift you up again

The Pope wrote that in fact “the Lord wants to come to our home, the home of our hearts and the homes of our families shattered by death. He wants to be near us, He wants to touch our affliction, He wants to give us His hand to lift us up again.” 

“Jesus allowed himself to be touched by our pain, he went down the same path as us, and does not leave us alone, but frees us from the burden that weighs us down by carrying it for us and with us.”

In fact Francis reassured the parents that their children have also “been taken by hand by the Lord; and that one day you will see them again, you will embrace them again, you will be able to enjoy their presence in a new light, which no one can take away from you.”

“[God] wants to dry your tears and wants to reassure you: Death does not have the last word. The Lord does not leave you without consolation.”

ChildrenDeathFamilyPope FrancisVatican
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