Milan (AsiaNews) - The 7th World Meeting of Families is "an extraordinary event that can support ordinary life," said Card Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan (pictured) during a press conference in one of the halls of the Milan Convention Centre (Fiera Milano City). The meeting (30 May-1 June) took three years to prepare. It will host hundreds of speakers and 7,000 representatives from about 150 countries. Some 5,400 volunteers will be at hand to help visitors, not to mention local parishes and families who opened their doors to welcome conventioneers. Contrary to a widespread belief that such large gatherings come to nothing, this meeting "will be felt in Milan, Lombardy and around the world," Card Scola said. This is because the "normal family, constituted by a man and a woman, tied by bond of fidelity and open to life" is a resource and an asset in contemporary society.
Card Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, spoke in the defence of the normal family against other forms of association as a real support for society and the economy. "The normal family, united in matrimony with two or more children, is happier" than all other forms of union, the cardinal said, citing the results of a study that will presented more extensively in the coming days. For this reason, "it is to the greater advantage" of society.
"Even when it is poorer," such a family "is richer in human relations between spouses, parents, children and siblings." This "wealth" has an external impact as well because "it produces quality human capital that can face the task of work and participate in the celebration of religious rites. This has in turn a positive feedback on work."
For the cardinal, cultural, political and economic forces should not penalise family life, which should be protected instead by specific laws, taxes and part-time employment. Sunday should also be a day of rest.
With 'Family: work and celebration' as its central theme, the meeting focused on the family's public dimension. Hence, work is where the family meets the outside world, celebration is how it "humanises" time.
During the meeting, a pastoral theological congress will also take place, Mgr Franco Brambilla, bishop of Novara. The three-day congress will show how the family can be an "engine" that opens up society. This way, it will be possible see how the wider structures of work influence the family, the couple and children's education. It is hoped it will also show how family life can "humanise" such structures.
Various participants will speak in morning sessions. Other activities are scheduled for the afternoon of 31 May in a number of cities in the region of Lombardy. The same will happen at various venues in the city of Milan on the afternoon of 1 June. Thus, people from around the world will have an opportunity to relate their own experience.
For Eugenia Scabini, dean of the Faculty of Psychology at Milan's Catholic University, and consultor (adviser) to the Pontifical Council, the meeting and the stories people bring will be a "radiant" contribution to a world caught up in nothing but tragedies, a sort of gift families make to society. "Presenting people who live generously and openly at a time when everyone looks inward" is "a gift to families of believers and non-believers alike."
For the schedule of activities, go to Family2012.
For the first time, the World Meeting of Families will host a meeting for children and teenagers centred on the idea of the garden. It will in fact be located in a garden where participants will learn to recognise, protect and celebrate its life.
For the duration of the meeting, Benedict XVI will impart plenary indulgence to all participants, via mass media as well.
At the end of their press conference, Cardinals Scola and Antonelli together with Lombardy President Roberto Formigoni inaugurated the International Family Fair, an exhibition area for organisations, associations, movements and trade unions devoted to the defence of the family.