By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 November, 2014
In his opening greeting to a conference in Limerick on ‘Family and Marriage’, the Bishop of Limerick underlined that often the family ends up viewed simply as the object of the Church’s pastoral mission.
“But it’s not just that the Church in her ordained ministers offers ministry to families. Rather the family itself needs to be rediscovered as the essential agent in the work of evangelisation. Family to family accompaniment and assistance is important,” Dr Leahy said.
Greeting the 300 delegates from across Ireland who attended the conference, which was organised by the Catholic Voice newspaper and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Bishop greeted especially the keynote speaker, Cardinal Raymond Burke and the other speakers.
These included Mgr Michael Schmitz, who spoke on ‘The Eucharist – encounter between the human and the divine’; Dana Rosemary Scallon who addressed the conference on ‘Protection of the Family; and Fr Marcel Guarnizo who gave an address on ‘The Culture of Death and the Demise of Democracy’.
In his opening talk, Bishop Leahy noted that a sign of the significance Pope Francis attaches to the importance of the theme of marriage and family is his decision to dedicate not just one but two synods to the theme.
Referring to Evangelii Gaudium, the Bishop recalled that in n.66 the Pontiff wrote: “The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children.”
He said marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.
Dr Leahy said that in the final message of the Synod, the Relatio Synodi, the faithful were reminded that despite the many signs of crisis in the family institution in various areas of the ‘global village’, “the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people”.
They have a right to the “Gospel of the Family” that has been entrusted to us, together with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ, he commented.
However, he said we know only too well that within the family today, as well as joys and deep love, there are also trials. Often relationships are wounded.
Recalling the final message of the Synod, he reminded the conference delegates that it states “people need to be accepted in the concrete circumstances of life. We need to know how to support them in their searching and to encourage them in their hunger for God and their wish to feel fully part of the Church, also including those who have experienced failure or find themselves in a variety of situations.”
“The Christian message always contains in itself the reality and the dynamic of mercy and truth which meet in Christ.”