There is great expectation for the opening of the World Meeting of Families, beginning on Wednesday 23 June and ending on Saturday, 25 June. ‘Family love: vocation and the way to holiness’ is the theme of this edition, which kicks off with the Festival of Families. Around two thousand delegates from 120 countries have been invited, chosen by the local Bishops’ Conferences, Synods of the Oriental Churches, and international ecclesial realities.
This meeting is being held at a difficult time for humanity, harshly tried by the pandemic and war. Gabriella Gambino, Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life spoke to Vatican News’ Debora Donnini about these difficulties, as well as her hopes for the event.
“After a whole year dedicated to family pastoral care with all the great work that has been done, I believe it is really time to ‘make Church’ together with families and pastors,” says Gabriella Gambino.
She describes the hope as being one of hearing words of encouragement from the Holy Father,
“so that when this Year of the Family is over, we will be able to continue on a journey together.”
Ms. Gambino goes on to describe the importance of involving children in the pastoral work of evangelisation, explaining that “the whole family is called to Christian proclamation”.
“I believe that, today, one of the greatest challenges for us parents is precisely that of transmitting to our children the awareness, and also the courage to proclaim Christ present in our families.”
She adds that it is also important to teach our children to do so, no matter the complexity of the times in which we are living.
Formation, accompaniment, and transmission of the faith to the new generations are some of the themes of the event.
The “fundamental” one is the proclamation of the vocation of each family, of each person within the family, says Ms. Gambino. She explains that “the family is a path to holiness and sanctification that each of us has at our disposal.
“The family is a gift that the Lord gives us.”
She says it is important to train people who know how to meet the reality of today’s families. Families need to be accompanied, especially young engaged couples and spouses, in the reality they live, so that from there they can discover their vocation and encounter Christ, she says.
“It is also important that we learn to transmit the faith to young people starting from the reality in which they are inserted, therefore also having the courage to address issues that are very difficult for us today, on which we are sometimes poorly prepared,” she adds.
The final point discussed by Ms. Gambino is a recently published document entitled “Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life”, published as part of the Pastoral Guidelines for Particular Churches, prepared by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and with a preface by Pope Francis.
Ms. Gambino explains that this text was explicitly desired by the Holy Father, precisely because we live in an era in which marriage needs to be announced with greater strength, with greater clarity, but above all, it needs to be announced ‘in time’.
For this reason, she explains, “I believe that one of the most interesting aspects of this document is the fact that it proposes a very ‘remote’ preparation for married life.”
This involves talking to children about the Sacrament of Marriage in Christian initiation courses to help them understand that marriage is a vocation and a calling from God.
Finally, the Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life talks about the importance of accompaniment even after the celebration of the Marriage Rite, that is, of a strong pastoral care of the bond, “because couples, especially in the first years of marriage, need to be accompanied.”
Nobody must be left alone in these moments, but rather they must “feel part of a Church community, which helps them get through moments of crisis, because a crisis is a normal phase in the life of two people who live together for a lifetime.
“We must ‘accompany’ couples, so that they know how to live crises as opportunities for growth and not as moments that mark insuperable wounds.”