U.S. bishops extol Pope Francis' 'love letter' to families, warn against 'rushed reading of the text'

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn shows the document 'Amoris Laetitia' by Pope Francis during a news conference at the Vatican on April 8, 2016.Reuters

Catholic bishops in the United States are upbeat with Pope Francis' treatise on marriage and the family, titled "Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)," which invites all people to grow in love and trust in God's mercy in the face of many challenges.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who was one of eight American participants in the two-year synod process that led up to the release of the groundbreaking document, noted that the new exhortation is the Pope's way of helping people encounter Jesus so that they will feel the love of God, the Catholic News Agency reports.

"The Pope has given us a love letter – a love letter to families... The document challenges the faithful to grow in love and trust in God's mercy in the face of difficulty. Let us remember that no obstacle is too big for Christ to overcome,'' the archbishop said.

"It is also a love letter calling the Church, the family of God, to realise more and more her mission to live and love as a family.''

Archbishop Kurtz echoed the Pope's warning against "a rushed reading of the text'' when turning to it for pastoral guidance and understanding. He urged to reflect carefully on the words of the Holy Father and apply these teachings to the individual lives, families and society.

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, described the document as a "beautiful and stirring reflection on love and the family" that challenges pastoral ministry to be more "missionary" and to engage with the "concrete reality" of parishioners' lives.

He said the Pope's encouragement and appreciation of marriage and family is very welcoming.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who also participated in the synod in Rome, welcomed the document as a ''gift'' both to the Church and to "everyone who wants to understand what God really intends for our true happiness."

"I was also touched by our Holy Father's call for all of us in the Church to reach out with compassion to wounded families and persons living in difficult situations," the Archbishop commented.

Although the document maintains Church doctrine, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said it does stress the importance of pastoral sensitivity in dealing with the difficult situations many married couples today face.

The bishops lauded the Pope for his thoughts and analysis of the "unique witness'' of Christian marriage. They also stressed the need to take time to read and truly understand the Pope's lengthy love letter contained in the more than 250 pages that was released last April 8.

"We cannot rush our interpretation of what we have here. We don't want to be taking bits and piece of them without taking them in context,'' said Archbishop Kurtz.

"Nothing is more essential to any society than the health of marriage and the family," Archbishop Chaput added.

Archbishop Gomez said he was encouraged by the Pope's emphasis on marriage preparation and support of couples in their first years of marriage.

Bishop Malone meanwhile said American bishops and pastors will likely seek ways to strengthen marriage preparation and support for married couples.

Archbishop Kurtz told CNA that improvements to marriage preparation and support of couples after marriage "will probably be the largest impact" within the United States.