By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 August, 2017
Thousands pour into Knock as countdown to World Meeting of Families next year begins and preparatory programme is launched.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on Monday decried the violence witnessed in Spain, Finland and Burkina Faso over the past week as well as the ongoing cycle of gangland violence in Ireland.
In his homily at a Mass in Knock Shrine which launched the one-year countdown to the opening of the World Meeting of Families on 21 August 2018, the Archbishop, who is president of WMF2018, said the “ongoing gangland culture of barefaced killing and vendetta” brought nothing but “an empty feeling of power to the unscrupulous”.
He told a packed basilica in Knock that “It is a power that does not free and liberate but only leads to its perpetrators being trapped more and more into a continued cycle of violence. Think of the tragic repetition of stabbings – often for futile reasons – that kills its victims and then ruins the life of its perpetrators.”
Emphasising that the family is one of the primary places where the encounter with the love of God and day-to-day life takes place, Dr Martin said married couples are called to enter into a path of living that reflects and incarnates in our world and in our times that lavish love of God.
“Passing on the faith within families is not just an intellectual exercise. Married couples pass on the faith by witnessing to the tender loving kindness of God. They do so through their mutual love as spouses – including their sexual love – and through their love of their children. Families are also called to contribute to a wider culture of loving care, which Pope Paul VI called a civilisation of love.”
He asked how could the Church help young people encounter the path of faithful love as the “only true path towards human happiness? How do we teach fidelity in a world where everything is disposable?”
Referring to the programme of catechesis in preparation for WMF2018 which was unveiled in Knock yesterday, the Archbishop said it would not be a programme which would end in twelve months’ time.
“It is a call to renew the Church so that it can enter into a new future: a future in which our Church will attract more and more people to Jesus.”
Stressing that “There is no family that is ideal,” he added, “Plates fly in every family. There are, however, great families who struggle, at times heroically.”
He underlined that the celebration of the World Meeting of Families would be hypocritical were it to be a celebration that ignored this struggle.
“A civilisation of love must involve the search for a new politics for families, a politics of care for the marginalised and those who struggle.”
He added that where human love fails or is imperfect, the Church’s response should not just be that of condemnation or exclusion but one of allowing the medicine of mercy to lead people towards a more perfect love.
Speaking to media, the Archbishop said one of the challenges for the Church was how to speak to young people about life-long fidelity at a time when few understood what that meant.
“The answer is to try and show to young people that long term fidelity leads to a deep fulfilment.”
He also paid tribute to the many households around Ireland where families were looking at exam results and opportunities for the future. “This is a big day in the life of families; the future of their children is at stake.”
He stressed that there is no such thing as the ideal family; however, there is an ideal of family and this was what the Church was aiming to promote through a witness in society to what fidelity means.
Fr Timothy Bartlett, Secretary General of WMF2018, said the organisers’ first priority was to welcome families from across the world and, “as Pope Francis has asked us to do, both in the preparation and at the event itself, give families the opportunity to know more about and to reflect on Amoris Laetitia”.
Asked what his hopes were that people would glean from the international gathering, Fr Bartlett said, “I would like them to take away two things. One is to become familiar with what Pope Francis is saying about the joys and the challenges of being a family in the world today.
“Secondly, we are hoping that they would be strengthened in their family lives. That the family itself, as such a fundamental institution of society, would be strengthened. We would see the family as a pivotal institution in terms of the future of the world.”
Anne Griffin, General Manager of WMF2018, said the event was aiming for a minimum daily participation of at least 15,000 people.
Though registrations had opened just a few weeks ago, there were already double the number of registrations there had been for the International Eucharistic Congress in 2012 at the same stage.
“We have a lot of interest from large groups that are coming from North America and from Europe. We are expecting at least 5,000 families to come from outside of Ireland, which could be more than went to Philadelphia” where the World Meeting of Families took place in 2015.
Organisers have also announced that for the first time at any World Meeting of Families, there will be no entry fee levied on young people under the age of 18 and the registration fee is also lower than previous meetings.
Bishop Fintan Monahan told CatholicIreland.net that “a lot is planned for the coming year” in the diocese of Killaloe in preparation for WMF2018 which takes place from 21 to 26 August 2018.
First up, “On 23rd September we are going to have a big gathering in Shannon and Maria Steen will be the keynote speaker and there will be a number of other people that are hugely passionate about promoting family and family values.
“On the last Sunday of September we are going to have a formal diocesan launch and that’ll be in the cathedral with representatives from all over the diocese.” There will also be a number of training courses, and catechesis on Amoris Laetitia will be available in different parishes.
Richard Brennan, who is co-ordinating volunteers for WMF2018, said over 1,000 volunteers that have already signed up in just over eight weeks since the application process went live.
“We’re looking for people from all over the country to sign up and get involved in this amazing, historic and fun event. We have hundreds of roles available and there is something for everybody.”
He told Catholicireland.net that a minimum of 2,000 volunteers would be needed but, if Pope Francis visits, that figure would be much greater.