The IX World Meeting of Families introduced by a Pastoral Congress in Dublin on August 21 already registers record-breaking numbers for an event of this kind, with almost 30 thousand registered participants. Among them, figure approximately 6 thousand under-18 youths and 11thousand people arriving to Ireland from 103 world Countries. More than 25 percent of registered couples are aged 29-40, while as many as 5 500 volunteers will be helping out during the event whenever needed. Speakers from world countries (91 women, 65 lay men and 44 clergy or religious) will coordinate a lay-led couples-led discussion programme. Amoris laetitia is the guiding theme of the entire event. Other themes include: Homelessness, addiction, domestic violence, separation and divorce, support to families with members who identify as LGBT, looking at “key challenges faced by many families today” – a “reality”, for many of them, pointed out Msgr. Eamon Martin, President of Irish Bishops, during the presentation of the programme of the Papal visit that will close the world meeting on June 25-26. The Congress envisages workshops on marriage preparation, on the transmission of the faith, solidarity between the generations in family, the impact of technology, the role of the family in caring for ‘our common home’, the earth, the vocation of fatherhood in today’s world. The World Meeting, said Msgr. Martin, “will give us another opportunity to celebrate, communicate, share and support family life.”
Anticipation builds over Pope Francis’ presence at the Family Festival, on the evening of Saturday August 25 and in the closing ceremony on Sunday at the Phoenix Park. Pope Francis’ visit “must not be just a once off event. It comes as the Church in Ireland struggles to find a new place in Irish society and culture – a very different one from the dominant one it held in the past” said the archbishop of Dublin Msgr. Diarmuid Martin. Pope Francis “is above all a free man. He shows us we can live in a world where faith seems marginal and yet manage to touch hearts and challenge them to reflect on and discern those fundamental values vital for society.” In fact,
The Pope “finds ways in which he can win hearts for what the teaching of Jesus involves, not through imposing and judging, but through winning and attracting.”
Pope Francis considers the World Meeting of Families “not as a gift to be placed in a glass-case for ourselves” but “as a gift that the Irish Church can then share with others.” “My hope”, continued Msgr. Martin, “ is that that the World Meeting of Families will open out for families renewed inspiration, hope and healing.”
The Pope will be arriving in Dublin on the morning of August 25. On the first day he will be staying at Áras an Uachtaráin, at the Presidential Residence, he will then transfer to the Dublin Castle for a meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomatic corps, and deliver the first official speech. In the afternoon he will make a private visit to the Day Centre for Homeless Families of the Capuchin Fathers. In the evening the Pope will attend the Festival of Families and the following day, Sunday August 26, he will celebrate the closing Holy Mass at Phoenix Park.
Before celebrating Mass the Pope will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, a national pilgrimage site of Irish Catholics where the Holy Father will pray for the World Meeting of Families and will pray the Angelus at 11.15.
It’s “something the Holy Father has done also in other Countries”, said Msgr. Diarmuid Martin, referring to the visit at Aparecida Shrine before the 2013 WYD in Rio 2013 or at Czestochowa before the WYD in Krakow in 2016. It will be the second time a Pope visits Knock Shrine following the visit of Saint Pope John Paul II in 1979. “The Apparition at Knock was family apparition”, said the Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary, the custodian of the Marian Shrine, as on August 21 1879 the apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist was witnessed by fifteen people. In fact “one of the most beautiful sights at Knock is to see families, sometimes the three generations praying and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the Shrine”, the Archbishop said. Knock was the venue for the official launch, on 21 August 2017, of the unveiling of the World Meeting of Families, and that’s when the countdown began. This is where “the momentum generated by the World Meeting will continue, and it is a place where the fruits of the World Meeting will be nourished and blossom long after the World Meeting has concluded”, said Mons. Neary.