“People of all backgrounds are fascinated by Pope Francis. Even those who do not belong to the Church understand that he wishes to set in place a real renewal of the Church and they wish him well.
What inspires Pope Francis in his desire for renewal? There is a danger that each person would try to impose their own idea which may well be other than the Pope’s vision of authentic renewal.
In his Letter of Convocation of the World Meeting of Families, which is published today, Pope Francis explains what his dream of the Church is:
“I dream of a Church which reaches out, not a Church which is self-referential, a Church which does not pass by at a distance the hurts of humankind, a merciful Church which announces what is at the heart of the revelation of divine love, and that is mercy”.
Pope Francis has expressed these ideas on many other occasions. They were evident in the short speech he gave to the Cardinals on the days prior to the Conclave which elected him. What is innovative in the Letter of Convocation is the emphasis on the central place that the family is called to play in realising this great dream of renewal of the Pope.
The family is called to be a place of encounter with that divine mercy which heals and liberates. The family is called to be the place where spouses love each other not in vague romantic terms but in terms of their everyday realities and difficulties. Living love in the family involves family members knowing how to generously give of themselves, involves knowing how to forgive, knowing never to lose patience, but rather to reach out to understand and to respect each other.
The Pope’s vision of the mission of the family does not attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown. Families need a Church which is with them, accompanying them in a process of discernment and integration through helping them to respond with a ‘yes’ to the Divine love.
The World Meeting of Families 2018 in Dublin sets out to be not just a passing event or a fleeting celebration of the ideals of family life. It is a moment in which the entire Church can deepen its reflection on the teaching of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). It is a moment in which the daily love of husbands and wives and the daily love of parents for their children can be recognised as a fundamental resource for the renewal of the Church and of society. The Church must be a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgement but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realise their own dream even if only imperfectly.
The celebration in Dublin in August 2018 will be prepared by an extensive catechesis on the meaning of conjugal, family love and on the role of the family in society. It will be a moment of renewal for the Church in Ireland with wide involvement of the lay faithful. It will be a moment in which the role of the family can be understood in greater depth. It will be a moment in which families can regain confidence in carrying out their mission in the context of a Church which is merciful and which accompanies them in the ups and downs of their lives.
The Church in Ireland – and especially my Archdiocese of Dublin – is aware of the privilege that Pope Francis has assigned to it but is also aware of the challenge that the Pope has placed on its shoulders. The challenge is not just of organising a large world event, but of recalling for a modern society such as that of Ireland, with its complex mix of secularisation and faith, how important the family is for the future of Ireland and of the wider society especially in Europe.”
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Notes to editors
- The World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin from 21 to 26 August 2018.
- Pope Francis chose Dublin to host the World Meeting of Families 2018 and gave it the theme: “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.
- The World Meeting of Families takes place every three years: the most recent took place in Philadelphia in September 2015.
- In the coming months, a programme of pre-catechesis will be offered to parishes and families based largely on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), encouraging reflection on different aspects of being family in the Church and in the world today.
- A second national Church collection to support the planning for WMOF 2018 will be taken up at all churches across Ireland this coming weekend (1 and 2 April).