VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Efforts to convince people that the differences between male and female are simply social conventions, which limit individual freedom, ignore the fact that men and women need each other in order to understand themselves, Pope Francis said.

“The differences between man and woman are not of the order of opposition or subordination, but rather of communion and generation,” which is why the human person, male and female, can be said to be made in the image and likeness of God, the pope told bishops from Puerto Rico.


“Without mutual commitment, neither of the two will be able to understand the other in depth,” the pope said. “The complementarity of man and woman — the summit of divine creation — is being questioned by what is called ‘gender ideology’ in the name of a society that is freer and more just.”

Meeting the bishops of the Caribbean archipelago June 8 during their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican, Pope Francis urged them to care for family life, which is “one of the most important treasures of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples.”

The pope spoke about “gender ideology” after listing a number of “serious social problems besetting” the family in Puerto Rico, including “the difficult economic situation, emigration, domestic violence, unemployment, drug trafficking and corruption. They are realities that generate concern.”

“Facilitate the sacramental life of the faithful,” the pope told the bishops, and give them the education they need to fulfill their mission in the church.

He told the bishops to make sure, before the Year of Mercy begins in December, that they and their priests are aware of their duty “to be faithful servants of God’s forgiveness, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation, which allows God’s love to be experienced in the flesh and offers every penitent the source of true inner peace.”