30th Anniversary of Familiaris Consortio

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Thirty years ago, on 22 November 1981, Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Christian Family in the Modern World, Familiaris Consortio, was published.

To mark this anniversary, the Marriage and Family Life Project Office at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has prepared a multimedia resource, revisiting the 1980 World Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome whose deliberations inspired the content and structure of Familiaris Consortio, and looking at the impact of both the Synod and the document on the life of the Church in England and Wales.

The resource will appear throughout the site here on catholicnews.org.uk. You can already listen to podcasts featuring family theologian Dr David Thomas – an adviser to the US Bishops at the Synod.

Familiaris Consortio has been described as the ‘Magna Carta’ for the pastoral care of marriage and family life by successive presidents of the Pontifical Council for the Family. It is the reference point par excellence for all those with a heart for families and a desire to serve them in the Church. It sets out the path by which families and the Church can come to appreciate more fully “the heart of the deepest truth” about family life.  Two of those who accompanied bishops to the Synod have contributed interviews: Archbishop Vincent Nichols, an adviser to Archbishop Derek Worlock, one of two English and Welsh bishops delegated to attend, and Dr David Thomas, as we mentioned earlier, theological adviser to the United States delegation. “We hope that by marking the anniversary in this way we will engage people more deeply with the content of Familiaris Consortio, as well as revisiting some important history in the life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales – the National Pastoral Congress and the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to these islands,” said Elizabeth Davies, Marriage & Family Life Project Officer. 


The Fifth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops met in Rome from September 26 to October 25 1980. 148 bishops and 68 other delegates from across the globe, came together to discuss the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II set out God’s plan for marriage and the family, describing the family as ‘an intimate community of life and love’ with the mission to ‘guard, reveal and communicate love’. Totalling 64,000 words Familiaris Consortio was, and remains, the most comprehensive treatise on the Catholic Church and its relationship to the family in the modern world.

Key features of the resource

Interviews and reflections from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and Dr David M. Thomas; archive materials including Cardinal Hume’s famous ‘I had a dream’ intervention; original archive photographs of the Pope, the Synod in session, the delegate and the then Cardinal Ratzinger in his role as ‘General Relator’ to the Synod; archive materials and preparatory papers from England and Wales; and articles, academic reviews and reports on pastoral initiatives and projects which affirm the practical legacy of Familiaris Consortio 30 years after its publication.