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Pope Francis: Parents Must Take on Primary Role of Educating Children, Not 'Intellectual Experts'

( [email protected] ) May 21, 2015 06:14 PM EDT

Pope Francis
''Our children need sure guidance in the process of growing in responsibility for themselves and others,'' Pope Francis said in an address on May 20, 2015. (Photo : AP Photo) 

Pope Francis has reminded parents that it is their responsibility to educate their children and not the "intellectual critics" who have "silenced" parents in their roles as heads of their families.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis made his comments on Wednesday to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience.

"If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better. It's time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile - they have exiled themselves from educating their children - and slowly reassume their educative role," Francis said.

The pontiff added that "intellectual critics" have "silenced" parents in order to defend younger generations from real or imagined harm. He also expressed sorrow that schools are influential than families in shaping the thinking and values of children.

"In our days, the educational partnership is in crisis. It's broken," he said.

"On one part, there are tensions and distrust between parents and educators; on the other part, there are more and more 'experts' who pretend to occupy the role of parents, who are relegated to second place," he explained.

Francis emphasized that educating and raising children to have strong values and become the "backbone" of a healthy society is a responsibility of each family.

The Pope also shared some words of advice for single or divorced parents, noting that many times, children in such families are "taken as a hostage," while their mother and father criticize one another.

Because this harms the child, the Pope urged parents to "never, never, never take your child hostage."

"You are separated because of many difficulties and reasons, life gave you this trial, but may the children not be the ones who bear the weight of this separation! May children not be used as hostages, against the other (parent)," he said, noting that while the task is difficult, "you can do it."

Francis also explained that often, parents are "paralyzed" by the fear of making mistakes, and thus do not correct their children.

He recalled how, as a child, he said an inappropriate word to his teacher. In response, his mother was told of the incident, she went to the school and made him apologize to his teacher, and then later disciplined him when they returned home. The pope said this situation would not even occur today, since parents often disapprove of teachers who attempt to discipline students for misbehavior.

"Our children need sure guidance in the process of growing in responsibility for themselves and others," he said.

The Pope went on to explain that because Jesus Christ was brought up in a family, He is able to empathize with others in similar situations. "When He tells us that all who hear the word of God and obey are His brothers and sisters, He reminds us that for all their failings, our families can count on his inspiration and grace in the difficult but rewarding vocation of educating their children," he said.

Francis closed his audience by praying that all parents would have the confidence, freedom and courage needed in order to fulfill their educative mission.

Since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church over two years ago, the Pope has often stressed the importance of a strong family structure. In a recent meeting with the bishops from Mozambique, a southeast African nation, Pope Francis urged support for public policies that promote the family and protect human life.

"Spare no efforts in supporting the family and in the defense of life from conception to natural death," he said May 9 in the Vatican. "In this sense, remember the options appropriate to one of Christ's disciples and the beauty of being a mother, accompanied by the support of the family and the local community."

"The family must always be defended as the main source of fraternity, respect for others and the primary path of peace."

The latest Pew Research Center Survey found that while the Pope is most widely admired by Catholics (90%), an impressive six-in-ten Protestants and two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated also view him with "great favor."  According to NBC, the Pope's popularity has eclipsed any numbers his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, ever posted and puts him on par with Pope John Paul II in the 1980s and 1990s.

Additionally, he has been named the world's "most influential leader" by Twitter users and is among Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People."