Bishop Denis Nulty welcomes publication of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)

08 Apr 2016

I warmly welcome the official publication today of Pope Francis’s eagerly awaited post synodal exhortation carrying the simple but beautiful title ‘Amoris Laetitia’ – ‘The Joy of Love’. This mammoth document spanning 261 pages was significantly signed on March 19th last, the feast-day of St. Joseph and the third anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis. We see St. Joseph as being the protector of the family and here we have from the Pope who hails from the farthest end of the world, a document that in its thrust is a huge endorsement of family life. Pope Francis writes aware of the struggles as well as the joys; this is a grounded exhortation. It is not written to affirm the ‘ideal family’ but is written in the context of the very rich but complex reality of family life.

This introductory note is by no means a summary, because I still have to digest much of the document, but this is purely an entrée, so that each of you in your own time will take up this masterpiece and allow its themes and messages to enrich family life in our diocese. I was struck very much by those to whom the document is addressed: “Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Consecrated Persons, Christian Married Couples and all the Lay Faithful”. In other words, Pope Francis is writing to all of us personally; the challenge is to read his text and not to rush it, simply to see how he addresses the usual red hot button issues. In fact, in paragraph 7, Pope Francis doesn’t recommend “a rushed reading of the text”. Each paragraph should be read patiently and carefully.

There are 325 paragraphs to read spread over nine chapters, each chapter situating or rooting the family in the understanding of scripture, in the everyday realities, and in the context of the pastoral challenges that face all of us who are supporting families in 2016. ‘Amoris Laetitia” is the fruit of a unique worldwide consultation of the faithful, feeding into the work of the two most recent Synods of Bishops. Here in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, once again I thank the many individuals and groups who responded to those initial questionnaires. I hope you feel your contribution will have been somehow reflected in this much awaited exhortation this day.

That splendid word “tenderness” is the key that opens the text of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ for me. In paragraph 27, Pope Francis suggests tenderness means “a closeness that is conscious and not simply biological”. What a beautiful description of family life. There is so much that is positive and encouraging in this exhortation; for those who love St. Paul and associate

1 Cor13:4-7 “love is patient, love is kind …” with many a wedding ceremony, you will deeply value Chapter 4. I propose such a chapter will provide fruit for homilies and catechesis around Marriage and Family Life long into the future. This document, like ‘Evangelium Gaudium’ and ‘Laudato Si’, will speak as much to the heart as to the head.

Here in the Diocese, I look forward to soon establishing a Committee to support Marriage and Family Life. ‘Amoris Laetitia’ will form the backdrop for this new diocesan outreach. If you feel you have something to contribute to such a committee, kindly make contact with Bishop’s House over April. Our Committee as well as digesting and implementing the recommendations of ‘Amoris Laetitia’, will also be charged with our diocesan preparations for the Ninth World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018. In terms of ACCORD, our church organization which looks after marriage preparation and counselling, ‘Amoris Laetitia’ has much to say about how we currently present marriage preparation courses and indeed the content of what we present. The humour of Pope Francis isn’t lost when he reminds us in paragraph 207: “they (the couples) don’t need to be taught the entire Catechism or overwhelmed with too much information”, while in paragraph 212, he speaks directly to fiancés: “Have the courage to be different; don’t let yourself get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty promises”.

In this Year of Mercy as I welcome warmly this exhortation from Pope Francis, I can’t but feel here is a Pope saying to us at diocesan level, at parish level, in our very homes, let us build up our family from below, from within. It is not for us to be looking over our shoulders, expecting solutions from the outside, we must work from within. I invite you as a Diocesan family to travel with me on this journey as we renew and strengthen marriage and family life and by extension society. I conclude with Pope Francis’s Prayer to the Holy Family, a prayer that accompanied all of us during the recent synodal journey and which will also help to frame the journey ahead as we savour the joys of ‘Amoris Laetitia’:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love;
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.

St. Brigid, pray for us.
St. Conleth, pray for us.
St. Laserian, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.



  • Bishop Denis Nulty is Bishop of Kildare and President of Accord Catholic Marriage Care.