Milan: the Pope, last Sunday June 3, during the concluding Mass of the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan, before 850,000 faithful from 154 countries, among them the Holy Land, considered that when “the solidity of the social fabric is in danger” the traditional family remains more than ever a model. The Patriarch expressed on the one hand his joy and on the other hand a few regrets.

“The presence of 50 cardinals, of more than 300 bishops and hundreds of thousands of faithful coming from 150 countries, shows the global dimension and enthusiasm of this gathering of families” cheered up Patriarch Fouad Twal at the airport on Monday, June 5. The Pope has vigorously defended Sunday as a day of celebration, focusing on the theme assigned to the seventh world meeting of families – “The Family: work and feast” – an initiative launched by Pope John Paul II. The Pope spoke of how important it is: “to harmonize times of work and the needs of family, profession, fatherhood and motherhood, work and celebration” in order to “build societies with a human face”. In general, he reminded the faithful to always favor “the logic of the being over that of having”.  The Pope insisted “when the social fabric is endangered the traditional family remains more than ever a model “.

The Patriarch acknowledges the joy that shone upon this meeting but also expressed some fear: “I fear that on their return, the families that live in the Holy Land will feel disrupted in comparison to the ways and levels of Western life. I am afraid that there are inevitable comparisons and bitterness”.

The local Church of the Holy Land was represented at this meeting by a delegation from the “Committee of the Inter-Church Family” and a broader delegation of 16 Arab-speaking families and one family of Hebrew-speaking origins, guided by Patriarch Fouad Twal and Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan and Episcopal delegate for the pastoral care of the family.

Having said that, the Patriarch exposes another negative point: “I would have liked, as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family and as a member of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East, to say a word about the Holy Land and the life of our families, in order to not forget the families of the Holy Land nor the message of the Holy Family. If you remember the family of Nazareth who lived in Galilee, and went to Jerusalem, I believe that we are really entitled to speak of the Holy Family and the families that live on the land of the Holy Family.” The Patriarch hopes to have a voice for the 8th meeting of the families convened in Philadelphia in 2015.

The East, however, has not been forgotten. Among the seven families who had lunch with the Pope after the final Mass on Sunday, June 3, two families represented countries that suffer in a special way so as to be able to show the closeness of the Pope. This was the case of the Hassib family of Baghdad in Iraq. For the Patriarch “this family accounted for all the families of the Middle East. The Pope said that he would pray for them and he blessed them”.

House of spirituality in the Holy Land for families

In the accounts of good news, the Patriarch, at the airport, expressed his deep gratitude to the movement: “Renewal in the Spirit” that has taken the initiative to create, in Nazareth, an “International Center for the family”: “so all the families of the world will have a house of spirituality in the Holy Land to live on the love and the simple life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph”.

Cardinal Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, earlier in the course of the meeting in Milan, confided that this initiative was “a concrete gesture of ecclesial communion in our commitment to the new evangelization”.  In a meeting with the press, Cardinal Bertone explained that “interior renewal, the renewal of families, consists in assuming the faith and making it a criterion of behavior”, that must “speak even in social life, in public and civilian life”. During his trip in 2009, the Pope, on the Mount of Precipice, blessed the cornerstone of the Center “a sign of hope in the future ( … )”. Then he added: “We pray that the Center promotes in this region a solid family life and offers everywhere support and assistance to families and encourages them in their vital mission in society”.

Christophe Lafontaine

Photo: P. Mario Cornioli