The families came from around the world for their appointment with Pope Francis on October 26- 27, 2013, for an event that was part of the Year of Faith. The title of the meeting had been promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family: Family, experience the joy of faith.
It was a festive St. Peter’s Square that welcomed 100,000 people from 75 countries. Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandchildren, countless children . . . all listening to pope Francis, amidst the applause, song and hundreds of colourful flying balloons.
Families from several parts of the globe shared their stories. Among them: a family belonging to the Focolare Movement’s New Families, a movement that collaborated with many others in bringing about the event. Three European couples expressed their intention to marry “despite everything;” a married couple with their son in their arms, announced the arrival of a second child; a family shared its courageous choice to join the missions; another well-known family on the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy assisted in saving several Eritrean refugees; then, one Nigerian shipwreck survivor on the same island; another family was forced to flee because of the war. . .
“Life is often tiring, many times it is tragic. . . ,” commented the Pope after hearing them speak. But what is really burdensome is the lack of love.” The pope invited families not to believe in the ‘throw-away’ culture,’ that chops life into pieces. “Christian spouses are not naïve,” he pointed out, “they know the problems and the dangers of life. But they are not afraid to assume their responsibility.”
There are three key words that should never be missing in a family, said Pope Francis: please, so as not to be intrusive; thank you so as to communicate love; and sorry so as to be able to forgive and begin again each day (see full text).
Nineteen songs composed by young people who took part in the Family Talent Contest and 4,200 drawings by children in the Present Your Family to the Pope project. A gesture of support for the families of Syria also went out from St. Peter’s Square with the collaboration of Caritas Italy and Caritas Syria.
Holy Mass was celebrated on Sunday, October 27, 2013 amidst an atmosphere of deep recollection and prayer. The Pope invited all to rediscover the dimension of simplicity of joy in prayer. “Pray in the family, for one another,” he said. Regarding faith: “Let’s not keep it of ourselves as if it were our bank account,” but share it through our witness and openness to others, urging us to go out to the peripheries (complete text of Pope Francis’ homily)
The event had been preceeded by the 21st Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family (October 23-25, 2013). “The family is founded on the indissoluble matrimonial unity between a man and a woman, and it is open to life, it is the engine of the history and of the world,” the Pope affirmed, but “but we should want to be near to couples in crisis and near to those who are separated.”
This is the reason and goal for the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family, “not to redefine the theology of matrimony and the family,” specified Bishop Paglia, “but to welcome and listen to families, living in various and complex situations.”
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