Pope in Ireland: families are the 'hope of the Church and the world'

At the Festival of Families, Pope Francis noted that families are founded on the love of Christ. The latter “renews everything [and] is what makes possible marriage and conjugal love marked by fidelity, indissolubility, unity and openness to life.” At the nunciature, the pontiff met with eight sex abuse survivors as well men and women religious and dignitaries.

Dublin (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis held his first mass meeting in Dublin at the Festival of Families in Croke Park Stadium, which included typical Irish dances, songs and testimonies from five families from India, Canada, Iraq, Ireland and Burkina Faso.

“Families,” said the pontiff “are the hope of the Church and the world". Christ’s love, "which renews everything, is what makes possible marriage and conjugal love marked by fidelity, indissolubility, unity and openness to life". In every society, families "generate peace because they teach love, welcome and forgiveness, the best antidotes against hatred, prejudice and revenge that poison the lives of people and communities."

A joyous and noisy crowd welcomed Francis in the stadium who walked among them. Previously, he visited the Capuchin Reception Centre and the nunciature where he met eight Irish sex abuse survivors, men and women religious and dignitaries. The meeting lasted about half an hour, said Vatican Press Office director Greg Burke.

Francis, who did not refer to the meeting, spoke to about 100,000 people in the stadium, telling them that "God wants every family to be a beacon that radiates the joy of his love in the world. What does this mean? It means that, after meeting the love of God who saves, we try, with or without words, to manifest it through small deeds of goodness in our daily routine and in the simplest moments of the day. This is what holiness means."

"The Church,” the pontiff went on to say, “is the family of the children of God. It is a family in which one rejoices with those who are in joy and weeps with those who are in pain or feel knocked down by life. In this family, everyone is taken care of because God our Father has made us all his children in Baptism. That is why I continue to encourage parents to have their children baptised as soon as possible."

"Christian marriage and family life are understood in all their beauty and attractiveness if they are anchored in the love of God, who created us in his image, so that we might give him glory as icons of his love and his holiness in the world. Fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, children and grandchildren – all are called to find the fulfillment of love in the family. May the grace of God help you every day live with a single heart and a single soul. Even mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law! Nobody said it was easy."

Francis also spoke about the people who related their stories at the meeting. Inspired by Nisha and Ted, from India, he said: "You have also helped us understand that social media are not necessarily a problem for families, that they can help build a 'network' of friendships, solidarity and mutual support. Families can connect through the Internet and benefit from it. Social media can be beneficial if used in moderation and caution. For example, you, who participate in this World Meeting of Families, form a spiritual 'network', a web of friendship; and social media can help you maintain this link and extend it to other families in many parts of the world.

"It is important, however, that these means never become a threat to the true network of flesh and blood relations, imprisoning us in a virtual reality and isolating us from authentic relationships that stimulate us to give our best in communion with others. Perhaps the story of Ted and Nisha can help every family to see the need to reduce the time they spend on these technological means, and to spend more quality time with each other and with God."

Turning to the story of Aldo and Marissa, an Italian-Canadian couple married for more than 50 years, Francis described their marriage as "a monument to love and fidelity!” For him, “A society that does not value grandparents is a society without a future. A Church that does not care about the alliance between generations will end up lacking what really matters, love.

“Our grandparents teach us the meaning of conjugal and parental love. They themselves grew up in a family and experienced the affection of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. This is why they constitute a treasure of experience and wisdom for the new generations. It is a big mistake not to ask seniors about their experiences or to think that talking to them is a waste of time."

"God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has created humanity in his image to make it share in his love, to be a family of families and to enjoy the kind of peace that only he can give. With your testimony to the Gospel, you can help God realise his dream. You can help bring all the children of God closer together so that they may grow in unity and learn what it means for the whole world to live in peace, like a big family."