“The Gospel of family, joy for the world.” This is the theme for the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, and it is meant to emphasize the family's role as a stabilizing force in society, said the local archbishop.
“The family is not just the object of the attention of the Church,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told journalists at a Vatican press briefing Tuesday.
Rather, he said, families have a “vital role” as “real protagonists of renewal and of the transmission of the faith to the coming generations.”
This was stressed at the recent Synods of Bishops on the Family, the archbishop said. Families are “active participants in the ministry of the Church,” through “the authenticity of their daily life in the family and in the home.”
He continued: “The World Meeting of Families must be an occasion to encourage and sustain families in this task.”
“The theme chosen for the World Meeting of Families,” Archbishop Martin explained, “wishes to stress the role of the family within society and the contribution of families to the overall health and stability of society.”
The theme for the 9th World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin on August 22-26, 2018, was revealed by the Vatican at a May 24 press briefing. The Irish capital was announced as the site for the international gathering at the most recent World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last September.
Tuesday's announcement comes less than a year after the October 2015 Synod on the Family, which had been preceded by an extraordinary synod a year earlier on the same topic.
Archbishop Martin recounted to journalists what Pope Francis said to him as he entered the Synod Hall last October, on the first day of the gathering of bishops: “Remember, Dublin begins today.”
The Irish prelate went on to observe the significance that both Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II chose the family as the topic for the first synods of their papacies, adding that he had attended both gatherings.
The new methodology that Pope Francis introduced for the Synod, which involved consultation with families, is an “on-going” process, he remarked.
Pope Francis does not consider the World Meeting of Families to be an “isolated event,” Archbishop Martin said, but rather “an event for the entire Church.”
The gathering, he said, “belongs within a process of discernment and encouragement, of accompaniment and animation of families,” and “renewal of the Church’s pastoral concern and pastoral care for the family and for families.”
The archbishop expressed his hope that the event would also be an “important milestone” in applying the “fruits of the Synodal process and of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Letitia’.”
Although an international event, he said, the World Meeting of Families will be important for the Irish Church and its “strong family culture,” which is nonetheless susceptible to “all the pressures of Western secular culture regarding marriage and the family.” He spoke of the challenges many Irish families face, including “precarious economic situations” and the housing crisis.
Archbishop Martin said preparations for the Meeting will be made in Ireland through a “process of catechesis,” based on the Pope's exhortation on the family, beginning 2017.
“The Church’s catechetical programs regarding marriage and the family need a complete overhaul in line with what ‘Amoris Laetitia’ sets out,” he said.
The 2018 World Meeting of Families will not be Dublin's first international Catholic event in recent years. In 2012, the city was the site of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.
Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was also present at Tuesday's press briefing.
“To celebrate the family — which in Europe is suffering in a particularly acute way — is an extraordinary occasion, so that all realities — civil, social, religious, political, economic — can rediscover the centrality and the strength of being the first pillar of peaceful coexistence among diverse (people).”
He told journalists that “Christian churches, the great world religions, civil and political society, can rediscover in the 'familial spirit' that common thread which permits them to confront that individualistic dimension which, unfortunately, is involving ever more the religious and civil realities in the world.”