Pope Francis has announced that the 9th World Meeting of Families will be held in Dublin, Ireland, Aug. 21 to 26, 2018. In the letter of convocation for the meeting addressed to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Pope Francis emphasized that the family continues to be “good news for today’s world” because it is based on God’s plan for humanity.
The world meeting will focus on the theme “The Gospel of the Family: joy for the world,” he said, and will seek to deepen the reflection and share the content of his post-synod exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”
The family is God’s “yes” to “the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases,” the pope said, and it is God’s “commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love.”
The family is God’s “commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love.”
It is only by “starting from love,” he said, that the family “can manifest, spread and regenerate God’s love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers.”
Cardinal Farrell and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin presented the pope’s letter at a Vatican press conference on March 30. Cardinal Farrell’s dicastery will be responsible for the international organization of the event, together with the Dublin archdiocese, which is hosting it.
Both the cardinal and the archbishop highlighted the fact that Francis speaks again of his dream for the church in his letter. Archbishop Martin said its “innovative” element is “the emphasis on the central place that the family is called to play in realizing this great dream of renewal of the pope.”
Echoing what he said in his address to the cardinals at the pre-conclave meeting, Pope Francis writes: “I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as Love, which is Mercy.”
The pope continues, “It is this very mercy that makes us new in love; and we know how much Christian families are a place of mercy and witnesses of mercy and even more so after the extraordinary Jubilee.” He expressed confidence that the Dublin meeting “will able to offer concrete signs of this,” and he invited all the church to keep all this in mind as it prepares for that great international event.
Francis asked Cardinal Farrell and his collaborators to prepare for that meeting by “translating in a special way the teaching of ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ with which the church wishes families always to be in step, in that inner pilgrimage that is the manifestation of authentic life.”
Cardinal Farrell said that while there has been much media attention on Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia,” which touched on the controversial subject of a return to sacramental life for men and women in irregular unions, the Dublin meeting will focus especially on other chapters of that text.
Archbishop Martin said the Dublin meeting will be “a moment in which the entire church can deepen its reflection on the teaching of ‘Amoris Laetitia’; it is a moment in which the daily love of husbands and wives and the daily love of parents for their children can be recognized 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 judgment but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly,” the archbishop said.
He announced that the Dublin world meeting will be prepared by “an extensive catechesis on the meaning of conjugal and 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 lay faithful” and “a moment in which the role of the family can be understood in greater depth.” It will also be an opportunity for families to “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.”
Following the normal practice, the Vatican has not yet confirmed that Pope Francis will attend, but Archbishop Martin revealed that the pope had told him of his “desire” to be there. If he does attend the world meeting, Francis will be only the second pope to visit Ireland, once known as “the land of saints and scholars.”
John Paul II was the first pope to visit the emerald isle. He went there in 1979 and was given a tremendous welcome, but Archbishop Martin said the country has experienced enormous changes since then. The sexual abuse of children by priests and religious has taken a heavy toll on the church and the faith of the Irish people and, he said, “it was felt most deeply in families.”
Today, Ireland is “a modern society” with “its mix of secularization and faith,” Archbishop Martin said, allowing that it will be a great challenge to organize this major world event. But he believes it will be worth the effort when one remembers “how important the family is for the future of Ireland and of the wider society, especially in Europe.”
Pope Francis, who is highly esteemed and loved in Ireland, is also well aware what holding such a meeting in Dublin signifies for the Irish people and the Irish church at this moment in history. In his letter, he hinted at this when he wrote, “my thoughts go in a special way to the archdiocese of Dublin and to all the dear Irish nation for the generous welcome and commitment involved in hosting such an important event.”
He prayed that it would bring them “abundant heavenly favors.”