Cardinal Kevin Farrell is in charge of the World Meeting of Families being held in August, and he has said he hopes the event will revitalize family life, both in Ireland and around the world.
The World Meeting of Families 2018 will take place in Dublin Aug. 21-26.
The prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life told CNA Jan. 25 that Ireland has a long tradition of family life, though this culture has suffered in the country in recent decades, and is not “as expressive as it was in the past.”
“I hope that [the World Meeting of Families] will bring family values back to life again,” he said.
His desire, he noted, is that everyone who participates will leave with the knowledge that they are not alone, but that there are “similar families from all over the world, who are gathered together, searching for how best we can truly live out and promote human love, marriage, and family life in our society.”
“I think that anybody that ever travels to Ireland is always overcome by the friendliness of the people, and I’m sure people who travel from outside of Ireland will be made to feel very much at home at this world encounter of families,” he said.
Cardinal Farrell was born in Ireland, and has served as the inaugural prefect of the dicastery since it was established in 2016.
The theme of the World Meeting of Families this year is “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”. The topic was chosen by Pope Francis, and is based on his 2106 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Farrell said the emphasis of the meeting is to take a serious look at the state of marriage and family life in the world today and to promote the Catholic view.
“This encounter... is to promote the Christian concept of marriage, and the Catholic concept of marriage, and will focus on that. All people are invited, we don’t exclude anybody,” he said.
The gathering is meant to focus on the entirety of Amoris laetitia, he said, and “to encourage, to promote, to guide, to teach, and of course, to help in ways when things don’t go well.”
“I realize that there are some contentious parts” in the apostolic exhortation, he acknowledged, though he downplayed the controversy, saying, “I think we must look to the greater good.”
In a May 2017 interview with CNA, Cardinal Farrell had said in reference to Amoris laetitia that the document is about the beauty of marriage and the family, and that “we need to say what our teaching is, and that’s not a yes and no answer.”
The World Meeting of Families 2018 will include seminars for adults with simultaneous programs from children and youth, a Festival of Families, and a concluding Mass.
Farrell told journalists that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, will run a seminar on child protection during the event, and a representative from the Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection also intends to be present.
Pope Francis is expected to participate, having voiced his hope to do so on several occasions, though an official confirmation is still awaited.
Leading up to the gathering, a program called “Amoris: Let’s Talk Family! Let’s be Family!” has been developed to help families, individuals, parishes, or other groups prepare.
Core elements include a six-phase parish-based program which includes opportunities for reflection and engagement with key themes in Amoris laetitia, practical outreach initiatives, a series of half-hour television programs, and live events hosted around Ireland featuring national and international speakers.
Live events will be recorded and available online. The materials for parish-based programs and other resources will also be available online.
The World Meeting of Families developed out of a request by St. John Paul II in 1994 for an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration for families. The first took place in Rome in 1994. It is held every three years.
It was most recently hosted in Philadelphia by Archbishop Charles Chaput. The 2015 event had approximately 20,000 attendees from 100 different countries.