It is three years since Pope Francis announced that the 9thWorld Meeting of Families would be held in Dublin from the 22ndto the 26thAugust 2018, with the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for theWorld”.  Since this announcement was made a lot of interest and curiosity has been generated around the event.  The confirmation of the presence of Pope Francis has re-enforced this.

The World Meeting of Families is a major event, not only because hundreds of thousands of people will travel from near and far to participate in one or more activities of the meeting, not only because Pope Francis will be present for two days, but also, and very importantly, because the family has such a vital role to play in the church and in society as a whole.  The meeting can be seen as an acknowledgement and a celebration of this important role.

The fact that it is an international gathering brings a huge bonus because there is the opportunity to see how people from other countries and cultures see their role as family and how they experience being family.

The meeting will conclude on the 26thof August but that does not mean that all of a sudden it becomes past tense, another event over and done with, another box ticked.  Depending on one’s attitude the WMOF can have lasting consequences, both for families and for communities.

The World Meeting is not a ‘cure-all’ for family problems, not could it ever aim to be that.  However, families can be both encouraged and questioned by what they see and hear at the meeting, or by the reports they read.  Every family can benefit from some encouragement, especially those who are experiencing serious difficulties.  Family members can benefit from being questioned about how they live together as a family – there is always room for improvement.

It would be a very positive outcome of the World Meeting if family members felt reassured that their efforts to become more accepting of one another are worthwhile and that they strengthen their resolve to grow in solidarity with one another.  It would be another positive consequence if communities were more accepting of difference and more inclusive of others.

No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. May we never lose heart because of our limitations or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us. (Pope Francis in his letter Amoris Laetitia, 2016).