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Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn and Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Papal spokesman, arrive for a news conference for the release of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the family, ‘Amoris Laetitia’ at the Vatican on 8 April. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring.

Western Australian family welfare expert Dr Maria Harries was one of 51 privileged people worldwide who were last year invited to observe the Synod on the Family as an auditor.

The Adjunct Professor at Curtin University, and Senior Honorary Research Fellow in Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Western Australia, has a wealth of experience assisting children and families.

She is also the chairperson of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) and a member of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Dr Harries spoke to The eRecord last Friday about her immediate impressions on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family.

Dr Harries said she was excited by the energy in the Synod, particularly with respect to her role as Chair of CSSA.

“To be given the opportunity to understand and appreciate the rich diversity of family experiences and the suffering of families that are experiencing various traumas and disintegration, as well as the urgent need to accompany families in their pain and troubles - that is what we do in Catholic Social Services,” Dr Harries said.

Amoris Laetitia, explained Dr Harries, augments that energy with a pastoral passion that invites a humility in the Church and holds much needed hope for a growth of community compassion.

“As well as the fulfilment of the dreams of all of us for long-lasting relationships that grow in their richness,” she said.

Dr Harries noted that Amoris Laetitia is a warm and eloquent document that talks the language of ordinary people.

“It has a human and eloquent richness in which the Pope speaks with a voice that is distinctively and joyfully his.

“It is deeply respectful, powerfully symbolic and full of quotable quotes, such as ‘Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope’,” Dr Harries explained.

“The opening invitation is directed to all – bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, couples and the lay faithful.

“It is an important call to us all in the Church and provides an opportunity for people everywhere to celebrate the importance and the joy of the family through the eyes of our Church for which family and family life are at the centre of our Christian faith and lives.

“The family is a good which society cannot do without and it ought to be protected.

“I particularly love the opening sentence in Chapter 1: ‘The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises’.

“There is a powerful ordinariness about families, as well as an extraordinariness in the image of the Christian family, that guides our hopes and dreams as we live its daily reality.

“We all have families: they are part of our past and our future. We come from them and we remain connected in often complex ways. The loss of family is generally our most profound grief.

“There is a such a strong focus on children as the gifts from God, as needing our protection but also being our teachers. And the Pope talks powerfully of the plight of ‘children who are orphans of living parents’ – children whose parents cannot provide them with the nurture that is their right. He calls on us all and on governments to provide more support to families to assist them in our collective care of children and the vulnerable.

“The Exhortation is full of the very life it proclaims: joy, hope, grace, tenderness. It proclaims a vision for the family and for love and relationship that calls to the wishes of each one of us for love, intimacy, relationship and companionship.”