Christians are called to bring hope to those going through dark times, especially families who are threatened by ideologies prevalent in today's world, Pope Francis said.

Addressing the Schonstatt Fathers, who were in Rome for their general chapter Sept. 1, the pope urged them to be "bearers of a message of hope in these dark situations that people in every stage of life are going through."

"Today, there are many marriages in crisis, young people tempted, the elderly forgotten, children suffering," he said. "We often see that the nature of the family is under attack by various ideologies, which shake the foundations that support the personality of the human being and, in general, society as a whole."

Furthermore, he said, within families there is "a gap of understanding" between young and old.

The pope began his talk by congratulating Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, who was elected Aug. 21 as superior general of the institute.

According to the dicastery's website, he will continue as secretary of the dicastery "for the next few months."

The pope also thanked Father Mello for his "collaboration during these last years in communion with the successor of Peter, for the benefit of the whole church."

In his talk, the pope encouraged the Schonstatt Fathers to continue their service to the church and the world, "especially by accompanying families in the various events and difficulties they are going through."

Recalling his recent series of general audience talks on the elderly, Pope Francis emphasized the need for a "covenant between generations" that "can save humanity."

Pope Francis said that preserving one's "personal and family identity" is more than just passing on one's genetic traits or last name, "but above all the wisdom of what it means to be human, according to God's plan."

"Therefore, the mystery of our redemption is intimately linked to the experience of love within families," the pope said.