This q-and-a is provided by the Irish bishops’ conference, in the context of today’s announcement of the dates and theme of the World Meeting of Families to be held in Dublin in August of 2018.
What is the World Meeting of Families?
In 1994 Pope Saint John Paul II asked the Pontifical Council for the Family to establish the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) as an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration that draws participants from around the globe. Held at three year intervals, the WMOF seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society. It fosters the process of accompaniment of families in their mission. It also fosters gestures of solidarity for families in difficulties.
Where is the World Meeting of Families held?
The World Meeting of Families was first celebrated in Rome in 1994. Since then Meetings have been hosted in Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); Philadelphia (2015); and now Dublin (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.
When will the Dublin WMOF be held and what will be the theme?
Pope Francis has decided that the Dublin WMOF will be held from 22 to 26 August 2018, and has chosen the theme: “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.”
The theme aims to take up the inspiration of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia on The Joy of Love, which was the fruit of a Synodal Process taking place in the Church since shortly after Pope Francis’ election.
Why is the theme of the family central to the ministry of Pope Francis?
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis began a process of reflection within the Church right across the world on the family. He announced the holding of two sessions of the Synod of Bishops: one 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.
Pope Francis has said this on the central place of the family for the Church and for society:
· The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.
· The experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church.
· The family is like a factory of hope.
· God likes most to knock on the doors of families and to find families that are united, that love each other and who raise their children in view of creating a society of truth, goodness and beauty.
How will the WMOF be celebrated?
The actual Meeting will begin with a major Conference which will last for three days at which international speakers will address the challenges of the family. Married couples will witness to the contribution of the family to the Church and to society. Each day will open with a major talk followed by break-out groups on a wide range of theological, spiritual, social and scientific questions on the place of the family in today’s word, and will conclude with Mass. On the evening of Saturday 25 August a larger function of testimonies will be held to celebrate the place of the family in the Church. A final Mass will conclude the Meeting on the early afternoon of Sunday 26 August.
Will Pope Francis attend the WMOF?
It is too early to know if Pope Francis will attend the WMOF. His programme is normally announced just a few months prior to any event. The Pope has expressed his desire to attend and such a visit of the Pope would bring great joy to Irish Catholics and others. But the final decision will depend on many other factors. Given the age of Pope Francis, a possible visit of the Pope in 2018 would inevitably have a more restricted programme than that of the papal visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979.
Who will organise the World Meeting of Families 2018?
The World Meeting of Families will be organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for the Family and by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, as bishop of the host diocese. The planning will involve teams of women and men, clergy, religious and lay, from all over Ireland. A Committee of the Irish Bishops’ Conference has been set up to oversee fundraising for the event.
In preparation for the meeting a programme of pastoral preparation centered on the family will take place across Ireland, especially during 2017. It is hoped that alongside the events gestures of solidarity will be fostered, such as for example a Pope Francis Fund for Homelessness.