01/09/2009, 00.00
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Sixth world meeting of families, an answer to the challenge of individualism

The encounter will be held in Mexico City, from January 14-18. A live television linkup with the pope is scheduled. A theological-pastoral congress is planned, but also initiatives like the "Mosaic" and the "Forest'" of families, and a competition on "A letter to my child," for unmarried and single mothers who want to send a letter to their children.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The final preparations are underway for the sixth world meeting of families, which will be held from January 14-18 this year in Mexico City. 98 countries will be represented; 200 bishops and 30 cardinals will attend; 318 journalists have been accredited. At the conclusion of the encounter, Benedict XVI will join the participants at the Mass on January 18 via satellite. Hundreds of thousands are expected for the closing ceremony. Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the pontifical council for the family, presented the details of the meeting at the Vatican this morning. The theme is "The family, teacher of human and Christian values." "There will be a live television linkup with the pope at the end of the Mass on Sunday, January 18," the cardinal said, "and he will also announce the theme and location of the next world meeting."

"The family," the cardinal observed, "today must confront, with creativity and a proactive spirit, the challenge of an individualist and mercantilist culture, based on production and consumption. Unfortunately, we have a mistaken concept of freedom, understood as an autonomy closed in on itself; other forms of cohabitation are privileged that obscure the value of the family, based on the marriage of one man and one woman." "With this mistaken mentality," he continued, "very often laws are made - without widespread social consensus and under the impulse of small but active groups, strongly ideological and with extensive economic resources - that permit easy abortion, rapid divorce, and euthanasia. Responding to these challenges," he concluded, "is a difficult moral obligation."

It is not by accident, therefore, that the meeting will begin with a pastoral theological congress, to be held from January 14-16, with speeches, roundtable discussions, and statements on three topics: "Family relations and values," "Family and sexuality," "The educational vocation of the family." These three basic themes will be followed by explorations, contributions, and research. "What are the values to be discovered and rediscovered?" is the question to which Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet will seek to give a comprehensive answer. Then there is the relationship between the family and the value of human life; the groups that help the family in the formation of values: parish, movements, family associations, school. Family and mass media, the family of immigrants, politics and legislation, the challenge of making laws in favor of the family and of life: these and other topics will be debated in the course of the three-day congress.

The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be the backdrop for the religious celebrations: on Saturday the 17th, there will be the recitation of the rosary and testimonies from families from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania. On Sunday, January 18, there will be the solemn concluding Eucharistic celebration presided over by the pope's representative, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state.

The preparation of the faithful, Cardinal Antonelli further said, is proceeding very successfully with the help of preparatory catecheses; excellent pastoral seminars are also being provided to explore the role of education in the context of family virtues and values. The "Mosaic of families" has been prepared: this is a collection of family photographs with the aim of composing a mosaic image of Pope Benedict XVI. Thousands of photographs have been sent in from every part of the world. Another highly encouraged initiative is the "Forest of families," consisting in the reforestation of certain areas on the part of families. This will be one result of the meeting, and a means to increase the environmental awareness promoted by Benedict XVI among others. An "International photographic competition" has been instituted, on the theme "Family and migrants," promoted by the organizers of the meeting. It has been well received all over the world.

The central coordinating committee has also set up a national competition on "A letter to my child." Unmarried and single mothers in Mexico who want to address a letter to their children will participate. The best letters will be gathered in a commemorative book that will be given to Benedict XVI as testimony of the profound value and dignity of Mexican mothers. A vast publicity campaign is being conducted on television and radio.

"The Church," Cardinal Antonelli finally said, "considers the family a pastoral priority, together with young people. The family is the crossroads of all pastoral initiatives, it is a central theme for the Church."

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