06/03/2012, 00.00

Pope at Festival of Families in Bresso's North Park

by Bernardo Cervellera
In an unscripted intervention Benedict XVI answers questions from some families in difficulty: on fidelity, on the economic crisis, divorce, work and celebration. The pope recalls his childhood: "Heaven will be like coming home and will have the same joy of my childhood." Politicians should be more responsible and not make promises they can not keep. To the divorced: the Church loves you, no one wants to forget about you.

Bresso (AsiaNews) - A large village square: that would be the best way to describe the enormous North Park, where more than 350 thousand people came to attend the Vigil of the Meeting of the Families, along with the pope. There were children playing with clowns and lying on the ground intent on painting; young people dancing to the music of some rock band; families and bishops who greet each other like friends as they walk from one sector to another. This Vigil is also called "Day of Witness". In fact, every family is a witness and protagonist of this fascinating story of love. I meet a former Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, who - with his own experience as a married priest - helps couples to be faithful by curbing divorces. His method is so popular that it is taught in communist China, where divorce has become an abysmal plague. There is also an Italian missionary from Sierra Leone, who has brought a young family of ex-Muslims with him. His father, always opposed to his son's conversion, blessed him on his death bed: "I wish all my children were like you and your wife who never quarrel ever, you are always ready to help others you care for your children. I want them all to convert to Catholicism".

Then there is the testimony of an Italian family, with four biological children, four adopted children, the group that educates Vietnamese couples in Ho Chi Minh City, the family from Angola that has to calculate how many bottles of water they can afford to buy because they do not have enough money.

The same atmosphere, relaxed and intense, spreads when the pope arrives on the big stage, a huge dome with transparent and colored segments, where the windows of the cathedral of Milan have been replicated. Benedict XVI is joined on stage by some families for an unscripted conversation.

Cat Tian, ​​a young Vietnamese girl of approximately 6, after presenting a bouquet of flowers to the icon of Our Lady, embraced the pope presenting her parents, Dang and Thao and her small brother Binh. Cat Tian wants to know something about the Pope's family, "when you were little like me" (see photo).

Benedict XVI explains that his greatest memories of his family life are ones linked to celebration, and Sunday mass, the time spent together singing with his brother, who later became a choirmaster. Even during the war, family love prevailed "with the simple joys." We grew up - says the Pope - in the certainty that it was good to be men''. "Heaven - he concluded - should give me the same joy I had in my youth. For this I hope to' go home 'to go the other side of the world. "

Next came the young engaged couple Fara and Serge, from Madagascar, both studying in Italy, dressed in their traditional colorful costumes. They are not convinced by the family model of the West, but niether by the traditionalism present in Africa. And although Catholics, they express their "attraction" and "terror" to the "forever" included in the Christian marriage. The Pope points out that today marriage can no longer be "arranged", but should be the responsibility of both spouses. "Reason and will" is important. And the "forever" matures day by day, from falling in love to engagement until marriage and the "second wine is better than the first," he adds, recalling the miracle at Cana (John 2). And he shouted "Congratulations! Congratulations!".

The conversation then embraces the economic crisis and especially Greece. The Paleologos family, Nikos and Pania, with their two children Lydia and Pavlos, in the IT business, speak of how they had to scale down commitments, salaries, and explain that their experience is similar to that of millions of other people who go to bed every night wondering " how not to lose hope. " What can the Church can say to these people with no prospects?

The Pope, visibly moved says that before this suffering, "words are not enough". He proposes some small steps that "everyone can take", in the parishes and families of one nation to help the families of another nation, in a kind of sponsorship, forming a network of solidarity. At a certain point, the Pope says that politicians should be "more responsible", and "not promise things they can not achieve. They should not only seek votes for themselves but be responsible for the good of all. Responsibility 'in front of God and men'': the congregation welcomes his words with applause.

After a musical interlude, Jay and Anna, who live in New York, are presented with their six children from 2 to 12 years. To keep their jobs they have to work long hours, and are unable to reconcile work and family time. They ask the Pope how they can find the "necessary harmony" to live "celebration according to the desires of God." And here the Pope speaks to employers to reflect on how they can reconcile what's best for their company and time for families. "There are companies - he says - that realize that giving more freedom to mothers and families is good for business." He defends Sunday as the day of rest, "day of freedom, the day is free for God." He concludes: "We defend the freedom of man defending Sunday."

The last question is asked by a Brazilian couple, Maria Marta and Manoel Angelo, who speak about marriage breakdown, the divorced and remarried. They tell of wounds carried by those involved, from the brand by which they are marked, by their not being able to participate in the sacraments. "These people are very dear to the Church, what words and what signs of hope can we give them?"

"This problem - says the Pope - is one of the great sufferings of families today. We must be close to this suffering. Prevention is key, during the beginning of relationships when people first fall in love, during the period of engagement to better understand the depth of the decision ". Then the Pope asks parishes and communities to "testify that they [the divorced] are loved even if they can not receive the sacraments"; ask divorced couples to seek help from a priest. He adds. "This suffering is not only an ordeal, but has great value. If suffering is internally accepted, the make a fundamental gift to the Church." And addressing these "failed" marriages, he concludes: "Dear friends, we deeply feel your pain and we all want to work together to help. Everyone wants to help both in prayer and in practice. No one wants to forget you."

In the end, a family of earthquake victims from Emilia comes on stage. The Govoni family, who now live in a tent city. With them, the Pope leads the Lord's Prayer. A colorful, multiracial procession parades and then the blessing of the Pope: no NGO and no political party would be able to do this. Parents and children smile as the Pope traces the sign of the cross on their foreheads.


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