7th WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES – MILAN 2012. THEMES: Family, work, celebration.
Archbishop William Slattery, Chairman of Department of Evangelisation.
Bishop Dabula Mpako, Diocese of Queenstown
Fr Chris Slater, Chairman of SA Council of Priests
Mrs Toni Rowland, Coordinator SACBC Family Life Desk
Mr and Mrs Jonathan and Joyce Meth, Family coordinators diocese of Kokstad.
PROCEEDINGS. With press accreditation it was hoped to have wider access to materials but much was only available in Italian at the time, although translations and summaries of Theological Congress presentations and speeches of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI have followed.
The THEOLOGICAL CONGRESS speakers addressed the topics family, work, celebration from sociological, theological and pastoral perspectives. The current reality of families under stress from financial insecurity, both parents working out of the home, and general decreased participation in the Sunday Eucharist for various reasons was highlighted. At the same time research has indicated that a family of a married man and woman with a minimum of two children is the optimum structure for effective socialisation of children. Marriage and family should continue to be promoted and supported by the Church and the State as a very important resource. Youth should continue to dream of a positive future but also take the initiative to build a future for themselves as best they can. It is important for children and youth to experience and appreciate the gift of a family.
Family spirituality and prayer must be promoted. This includes especially Sunday as a day of rest and participation in the Eucharist. Cardinal Ravasi’s opening keynote address focusing on the family and the ongoing work of creation was particularly poignant.
Work should not be seen from utilitarian and materialistic perspective. Work is necessary, the Creator worked, but workers should not become slaves to success and strive creatively for the best work-family balance for their circumstances.
A parallel congress for youth was held and many activities were provided for younger children by some of the thousands of volunteers who were available for assistance in every area.
A FAMILY FAIR provided a valuable opportunity for book displays and sales and information on family movements. Very little was available in English.
Highlights of the Meeting were the events from Friday afternoon after the arrival of Pope Benedict. The Holy Father addressed a number of different groups, civic, military, priests and religious and a large gathering of youth in their confirmation year. A performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Choral) at the famous La Scala theatre was his personal choice.
FEAST OF TESTIMONIES. 350 000 family people had made their way to Bresso Park for this Saturday evening event where interspersed with musical items the Holy Father interacted with families from around the world on their personal questions, around marriage, remarriage, work and financial hardship. He addressed their concerns with sensitivity and pastoral care, upholding gospel values.
CLOSING EUCHARIST. A million people from 153 countries together with many cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests participated in this expression of worship and solidarity. The orchestra and choir led the joyful singing of the specially composed World Meting of Families Song.
In his homily on the feast of the Blessed Trinity the Holy Father summed up the themes and reflections of the week. Everyone is called to radiate the love of the Trinity but he addressed a special call to families. “God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, image of God. Married love is fruitful for couples, their children, and society.
Addressing the topic of work he said, “In Sacred Scripture we may recognize the task of man and woman to collaborate with God in the process of transforming the world through work, science and technology. Man and woman are also the image of God in this important work, which they are to carry out with the Creator’s own love.’
For us Christians, the feast day is Sunday, the Lord’s day, the weekly Easter. It is the day of the Church, the assembly convened by the Lord around the table of the word and of the eucharistic Sacrifice. It is the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play, sport. It is the day of the family, on which to experience together a sense of celebration, encounter.
He concluded “Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance. Harmonizing work schedules with family demands, professional life with fatherhood and motherhood, work with celebration, is important for building up a society with a human face. Always give priority to the logic of being over that of having. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to him, the kind that therefore “makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)” (Deus Caritas Est, 18). Amen.
Visit the website www.family2012.com for reports and photos of the event.