Media Release – World Meeting of Families 2012
7th World Meeting of Families – Definitely a Family Affair!
Over sixty Australians, representing the Australian Bishops Conference, Australian Dioceses and Catholic Agencies attended the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan this month. And it certainly was a family affair!
A group of forty-eight Australian Diocesan delegates travelled to the Milan Gathering, led by Bishop Terry Brady, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and Ron and Mavis Pirola who chair the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council. Included in the group were three families with five children each, most under the age of ten.
Wagga Wagga Diocese was represented by Mark and Jenny Mannering and one of their sons, William. The Mannerings, together with Bishop Brady, were also the Official Delegates for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. During the Meeting, they attended a concert in the Pope’s honour at the famous La Scala Opera House.
The Pope had a luncheon with representatives of six continents. Australia was represented by Stuart and Donna Green of Parramatta Diocese together with two of their children, Jack and Anna.
One highlight for the Australians included Mass celebrated by Cardinal Pell and Bishop Brady at the beautiful church of St Satyrus which was built in 886. It was a famous pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages.
“The whole Meeting brought home to me not only the depth of our traditions but the universality of the Church”, commented one couple. Others found it a powerful reminder of the evangelizing potential of the ordinary events of daily life. “Our family is like a little world of its own within the whole world” said one mother. “We influence other families in that world by the way we live our lives”.
World Meetings of Families are the inspiration of Pope John Paul II. They have been held every three years since 1994. They follow a pattern similar to World Youth Day and attract similar numbers.
There were 7,000 at the preliminary three-day Pastoral and Theological Congress at which 153 countries were represented. A Family Expo, open to the public, was attended by twenty to thirty thousand people.
The theme of this World Meeting was ‘Family: Work and Celebration’. Speakers and workshop leaders discussed the fact that work is good. It gives dignity to the person and protection for the family. However, work is for the family, not the family for work. Family is the ideal training ground for appreciating the value of a job well done in service for others.
Work needs to be balanced with ‘celebration’ which is much more than just ‘partying’. Celebration comes from the awareness of each other’s presence and from respect and caring for each other. The attitude for this is honed in the simple daily events of family life with all its ups and downs. The balance between work and celebration evolves from centering all that we do in Christ.
The week culminated in the open air Papal events at a nearby airport. One third of a million attended a Saturday evening of song and testimonies with the Holy Father. It was a brilliantly executed dialogue, with families posing questions from their experiences of some of the great joys and deep pains of marriage and family life. The Pope spoke without notes and was concise, clear and sensitive.
Then a million people converged on the same site the next day for the concluding Papal Mass. It was a very joyful finale to a meaningful week. The next such Gathering will be in Philadelphia in 2015.