Pontiff urges fathers to ‘waste time’ playing with their offspring in his general audience address
Many children today are effectively orphans because their fathers are absorbed with work and do not play with them, Pope Francis has said.
Speaking at his customary Wednesday morning audience, the Pontiff urged fathers to “waste time” playing with their offspring.
According to a transcript of the address by Zenit news agency, Francis said: “Already as bishop in Buenos Aires, I perceived the sense of orphanhood that youth live today. And I often asked the fathers if they played with their children. And the answer was bad, eh! In the majority of cases [they said]: “But I can’t because I have so much work…” And the father was absent from that child who was growing up. And he did not play with him, he did not spend time with him.
“Now, in this common course of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all the Christian communities that we must be more attentive: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of little ones and young people produces gaps and wounds which can also be very grave. And, in fact, the deviances of children and of adolescents can in good part be traced to this absence, to the lack of examples and of authoritative guides in their daily life – to the lack of closeness, to the lack of love on the part of fathers. The sense of orphanhood that so many young people live is deeper than we think.
“They are orphans, but within the family, because the fathers are often absent, also physically, from home but above all because, when they are home, they do not behave as fathers, they do not have a dialogue with their children. They do not fulfil their educational task. They do not give to their children – with their example accompanied by words – those principles, those values, those rules of life that they need, just as much as they need bread. The educational quality of the paternal presence is all the more necessary the more the father is constrained by work to be far from home.
“At times it seems that fathers do not know well what place to occupy in the family and how to educate the children. And then, in doubt, they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibility, perhaps taking refuge in an improbable relation ‘on par’ with the children.
“However, it is true that you must be a companion to your child but without forgetting that you are the father. However, if you only behave as a companion on a par with your child, you will not do the child any good.”
The Pope’s address was shorter than normal, but he promised that he would continue to discuss the importance of fathers at next week’s general audience.