Rome (Italy). On 22 June 2022, with the Festival of families “The beauty of the family” in the presence of Pope Francis, the 10° World Meeting of Families on the theme, “Family love: vocation and the way to holiness”, which is being held in Rome from 22 to 26 June for 2,000 Delegates from all over the world and in the “multicentric and widespread mode” for all families who follow the event through the means of communication.
In a packed and joyful Paul VI Hall, “The beauty of the family” alternated testimonies, music, moments of reflection, in a great story about the joys, hardships, and beauty of being a family, enriched by the words of Pope Francis, which encouraged families to live with their eyes turned towards Heaven, as the Blessed Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi said to their children, facing the hardships and joys of life “always looking from the roof up”.
Francesco Beltrame Quattrocchi, grandson of Blessed Maria and Luigi, the first married couple beatified by St. John Paul II in 2001, was present at the beginning of the event to tell the story of the holiness of the spouses who are the patrons of the event.
Card. Kevin Joseph Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, then welcomed the Holy Father and presented five families who shared their spiritual journey: some Roman families, a family from tormented Ukraine, and a family from Congo. “The ones we present to you are not perfect families, because as you always say, perfect families do not exist. They are normal families, who like so many others in every country and latitude, go through the sufferings and difficulties typical of our time: the fear of getting married in a society that discourages them from committing themselves ‘forever’; the effort to forgive each other in a world that pushes to individualism and to think only of oneself, the raging disease, up to the choice of giving one’s life to save that of a child, war, and the sudden loss of a loved one”.
“The family today is a complex reality, the junction of challenges and problems that in the daily life of engaged couples, spouses, and children sometimes seem insurmountable. However, it is precisely this reality that the Church wishes to take care of with courage, mercy, and a Mother’s concern, so that, as you exhort us Holy Father, the Church may be a house of tenderness for everyone, a house of the love of a Father who patiently waits and extends His arms to His child who seeks Him with sincerity and humility”.
After listening to the testimonies of the five families who took turns on the stage, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to them and to all the families of the world:
“I would like to make you feel my closeness right where you are, in your concrete condition of life. My encouragement is above all precisely this. Start from your real situation and from there try to walk together, together as spouses, together in your family, together with other families, together with the Church”.
Urging them not to forget that closeness is God’s style – closeness, compassion, and tenderness – he takes up the testimonies, indicating the “extra steps” to take together:
“One more step” towards marriage. The Pope thanks Luigi and Serena, who told their experience with great honesty, in which they did not feel supported by a community but, providentially, found support in other families, ‘small churches’. He encourages them to continue on their journey, certain of Christ’s support. “In marriage, Christ gives Himself to you, so that you have the strength to give yourself to one another. Courage, therefore, family life is not an impossible mission! With the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey to do together with Him, never alone”.
“One more step” to embrace the cross. Among the testimonies, there is that of Roberto and Maria Anselma, the parents of the Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a young mother of a family from Rome, who, despite her illness, decides to give her life to the end, carrying on her pregnancy. “You spoke to us about the cross, which is part of the life of every person and every family. And you have testified that the hard cross of Chiara’s illness and death did not destroy the family and did not eliminate serenity and peace from your hearts. … Seeing how she experienced the trial of the disease helped you to look up and not to remain prisoners of pain, but to open yourselves to something greater: the mysterious designs of God, eternity, Heaven. I thank you for this testimony of faith!”.
“One more step” towards forgiveness. To Paul and Germaine, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who courageously recount the crisis they experienced in their marriage, Pope Francis speaks of forgiveness. “Forgiveness heals every wound; forgiveness is a gift that flows from the grace with which Christ fills the couple and the whole family when you let Him act, when you turn to Him. It is very beautiful that you celebrated your “feast of forgiveness” with your children, renewing your marriage vows in the Eucharistic celebration”.
“One more step” towards hospitality. Iryna and Sofia are a mother and daughter who fled the conflict in Ukraine and were hosted in Italy by a family. “The war confronted you with cynicism and human brutality, but you have also met people of great humanity. … I also thank you, Pietro and Erika, for having told your story and for the generosity with which you have welcomed Iryna and Sofia into your already large family. … Families are places of welcome, and woe to them if they fail! A society would become cold and unlivable without welcoming families”.
“One more step” towards fraternity. The testimony is that of Zakia Seddiki, originally from Casablanca, wife of Luca Attanasio, the Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo killed in an attack in February 2021. The pain of the young woman, mother of three girls, is still fresh, but does not annihilate the strength of the ideals carried out with her husband, whom she continues to feel present. “In Zakia and Luca, we find the beauty of human love, the passion for life, altruism, and also fidelity to one’s belief and religious tradition, a source of inspiration and inner strength. The ideal of fraternity is expressed in your family. In addition to being husband and wife, you lived as brothers in humanity, as brothers in various religious experiences, as brothers in social commitment”,
Papa Francesco concludes his Discurse by asking a question to all families: “What ‘extra step’ do you ask of our family today? Of my family: everyone must say this. Listen to yourselves. Let yourselves be transformed by Him, so that you too can transform the world and make it a ‘home’ for those who need to be welcomed, for those who need to meet Christ and feel loved”.
The World Meeting of Families continues, according to the program, with the Theological Pastoral Congress which takes place in Paul VI Hall and with the evening events in Piazza San Giovanni and in the Roman parishes. On 25 Saturday at 18:30 (Italian time) there will be the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, and on 26 Sunday, at the end of the event, the Angelus with the Mandate to the Families.