Pope Francis has said that a global war on marriage is underway and that Catholics must help couples stay strong and provide pastoral care to those experiencing difficulty.

“Today there is a global war to destroy marriage,” the Pope said during a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, with priests, Religious, seminarians and lay people. “Today you do not destroy with weapons, you destroy with ideas. It is ideological colonisation that destroys.”

The way to strengthen marriages against the onslaught, he said, was to help couples “make peace as soon as possible, before the day ends, and don’t forget the three words: ‘May I?’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘Forgive me.’

“Marriage is the most beautiful thing that God has created,” Pope Francis said. In marriage, man and woman became one flesh, “the image of God. When you divorce one flesh you sully God’s image,” he said. A woman named Irina, who, with her husband ministers to families and teaches Natural Family Planning, told Francis that Georgian families faced challenges brought by “globalisation, which does not take into account local values; new views on sexuality like gender theory; and the marginalisation of the Christian vision of life”.

Gender theory usually refers to the idea that male and female characteristics are largely social constructs rather than being determined by biology.

Responding to Irina, Pope Francis said, “You mentioned a great enemy of marriage: gender theory.” He then said that Catholics must do everything possible to aid couples in difficulty. “The Catholic community must help to save marriages.”

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