By Sarah Mac Donald - 24 May, 2016
The first of three national collections intended to help defray the cost of hosting the 9th World Meeting of Families in 2018 will take place in parishes across the country this weekend.
Last September in Philadelphia, Pope Francis announced that Dublin had been chosen as the venue for the next such global event.
This weekend’s collection will be followed by another national collection next year and a final one in 2018.
Over the coming months, the website www.worldmeeting2018.ie will also facilitate those who wish to donate online through the website, and will also provide details as to how to make a bank transfer, or send a cheque or money order.
The bishops have already established a National Finance Committee to provide advice on the financial planning for the World Meeting of Families, as a global event of this size requires a huge financial outlay on behalf of the host country.
The dates and theme of the Meeting will be announced by Pope Francis and the event is expected to attract thousands of Catholic families from around the world to Ireland.
There has been speculation since the Pope announced his decision last September that the occasion will see the Pontiff travel to Ireland for the first papal visit since 1979.
However, the Archdiocese of Dublin in recent days has sought to downplay speculation over possible locations that the Pope might visit in the event of a papal visit. No confirmation of the Pope’s intentions to visit or not will become clear until 2017.
The World Meeting of Families was a pastoral initiative of St John Paul II who intended it to be an international event of prayer, catechesis and celebration.
It seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to bear witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family for all of society.
The World Meeting also fosters gestures of solidarity for families in difficulty.
Held every three years, and coordinated by the Pontifical Council for the Family, it is the largest universal gathering of Catholic families and brings together families from all over the world in faith and celebration.
The theme of the family is central to the ministry of Pope Francis. Shortly after his election, he began a process of reflection within the Church across the world on the family culminating in two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.
One of these focused on the situation of families across the world and the other on how to respond to the challenges facing family life.
Pope Francis recently published a wide-ranging document as a fruit of that process, entitled Amoris Laetitia, on love in the family.
The World Meeting of Families was first celebrated in Rome in 1994. Since then, meetings have been in Rio de Janeiro (1997), Rome (2000), Manila (2003), Valencia (2006), Mexico City (2009), Milan (2012), Philadelphia (2015) and now Dublin, Ireland (2018).
The principal events of the World Meeting of Families 2018 will be held in Dublin, but events will also take place in other centres around Ireland.
In preparation for the meeting, a programme of pastoral preparation centred on the family will take place across Ireland, in particular during 2017.
It is hoped that alongside the events, gestures of solidarity will be fostered, especially with the setting up of a Pope Francis Fund for Homelessness.