VATICAN CITY — The only way for parents to teach their children the beauty and importance of marriage and of accepting children as a gift from God is through their example, Pope Francis said.

Children “are immersed” in a media and cultural environment extolling virtues and practices that are “at odds with what, until a few decades ago, was considered ‘normal’ but is no longer the case,” the pope told members of the European Parents’ Association.

“Parents thus find themselves constantly having to show their children the goodness and reasonableness of choices and values that can no longer be taken for granted, such as the importance of marriage and the family, or the decision to accept children as a gift from God,” the pope told the group Nov. 11.

In his talk, Pope Francis reiterated the church’s strong support for the right of parents “to raise and educate their children in freedom, without finding themselves constrained in any sphere, particularly in that of schooling, to accept educational programs contrary to their beliefs and values.”

While the culture and its values change, “the needs of the human heart remain the same,” the pope said, and that is the place where parents must