Italian dioceses have welcomed Amoris Laetitia with an extraordinary response. A year after the publication of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, the zest of local churches has already delivered the first fruits. Conferences, seminars, initiatives for support to engaged couples or marriages in crisis. And most of all, a change in style to attune the pastoral care of the family to Bergoglio’s model. During the eight months that followed the release of the document, which bears the date of March 19 2016 but was made public on April 8, the Italian Bishops’ Conference encouraged the dissemination of Amoris laetitia throughout the country. “’Beyond the specific theme addressed therein, the text presents a set of indications on family life – explained Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, CEI Secretary General – but most of all it involves the Church as a whole, called to have (to recover) an evangelical and realistic gaze on a human experience that is equally extraordinary and fragile. It is so extraordinary that it involves everyone, whether directly or indirectly, while its fragility is such that we constantly come across difficult family situations, some of them dramatic.”
The picture from Bolzano to Ragusa is but a partial overview, yet it signals the determination to follow the Pope’s example. Fr Paolo Gentili, Director of the National Office for the Pastoral Care of the Family, attended over 70 meetings: “A veritable torrent of grace highlights a new face of the Catholic community: a Church that decides to serve as a school for the family.”
In Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro it was decided to propose seminars for marriage preparation that would respond to concrete needs. In fact, while engaged couples remain at the centre of interest for dioceses, a targeted proposal ought to be offered to domestic partners – with or without children – which today represent 80% of couples that took part in the dedicated seminars in 2016.
Moreover, Francis himself recently called upon the priests to “reach out in the Gospel way by meeting and welcoming young people who prefer to live together without being married.” In the city of Catania, the reflection on Amoris laetitia prompted the creation of the School of parenthood in faith and love, which constitutes and opportunity to deepen the theme of children’s education. 180 young parents and 90 children participate in the diocese’s initiative. The diocese of Bolzano- Bressanone is working on a new edition of the resource “The dialogue of pastoral workers with divorcees”, to update the 1988 document. A new Office for Marriage and the Family with increased impact on diocesan pastoral care is being planned on the wake of what emerged during the meetings.
The Jubilee for broken families was established in Alessandria to give counsel to those experiencing difficult situations caused by separation, divorce and new unions. A special solidarity initiative was launched in the Sicilian city of Caltagirone, in a climate of coordination between parishes: families have opened the doors of their homes (as well as their savings) to other families from other areas of Sicily.
This experience has furthered the establishment of family-counsel services in parishes, whereby the parish priest, together with selected couples that underwent specific formation, offer support to broken families that wish to be integrated in the ecclesial environment.
Separated couples and divorcees are the recipients of “Samaria”, an initiative promoted in Mantua that provides accompaniment to those living a condition of “wounded” sons and daughters, but not for this reason “excluded” from the Church. A diocesan itinerary of marriage preparation from a catechumenal perspective is being planned in Ragusa, while in Teano-Calvi special focus is being placed on school staff, so they may be the first to embody the pastoral spirit of Bergoglio in relations with families.