This week Pope Francis has written a letter to families asking them to pray for the next Synod of Bishops, which will take place in the Vatican in October with the theme “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”. Today Bishop Liam MacDaid, Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family warmly welcomes Pope Francis’ Letter to Families.
Bishop MacDaid particularly welcomed Pope Francis’ request to families – who make up the majority within the Church community – to help by their prayers this October’s Synod. In terms of supporting families in Ireland, Bishop MacDaid congratulated the success of the Veritas bestseller The Family Prayer Book, which was published by the Bishops’ Council just 18 weeks ago. The Family Prayer Book is now going to reprint following the sale of 3,000 copies and is available from www.veritas.ie. Bishop MacDaid said, “In the words of Pope Francis in his letter, ‘If there were no families, then Jesus’ Word – the word of the Church, the word of the Pope – on the married love which is able to open us up to God’s unconditional love for all, would appear abstract, unrealistic and ineffectual.’”
In his Letter Pope Francis addresses the “dear families” of the world, inviting families to involve themselves in the Synod path. Pope Francis wants with his letter to come into homes to speak about this Synod because as the Holy Father says, “In our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.” Pope Francis says that the prayers of families will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church and thanks families and as is very characteristic to him asks all to pray also for him, so that he may serve the People of God in truth and in love.
This important Synod meeting in October will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Pope Francis affectionately emphasises that such support on the part of families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever:
“This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task …May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.”
Reflecting on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Pope Francis describes the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph and an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, going to meet them as a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. “He is the one who brings together and unites generations! … In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus”. Pope Francis prays that the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph may always accompany all of us and help us to walk united in love and in caring for one another.”
Pope Francis invoked the blessing of the Lord on every family.
Notes for Editors
Since his election on 13 March 2013 Pope Francis has promoted the family in the mind and the heart of the Church. This has included the pilgrimage of families for the Year of Faith to join Pope Francis, the Holy Father’s unique and ground breaking conversation with thousands of engaged couples in Saint Peter’s Square on 14 February (a papal first), last week’s extraordinary Consistory in the Vatican, the next Synod which will take place in October, and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, USA, scheduled for September 2015. Pope Francis Letter to Families is available on www.vatican.va and on www.catholicbishops.ie.
· Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher, is Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family. Bishop MacDaid travelled with a group of Irish Pilgrims on the occasion of the Pilgrimage of Families to Rome in the Year of Faith on 26 and 27 October 2013.
The vocation of marriage and family life enriches the whole community. The Council for Marriage and the Family is a Council of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. The Council was established in 2010 with the purpose of assisting the Bishops in their mission, specifically as it relates to marriage, families and family life. It strives to do this in a number of ways, including encouraging and supporting the spiritual and pastoral care of marriage and the family in parishes and dioceses. It endeavours to promote and support marriage and family life throughout the community and society. The Council works in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Family and with other Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference commissions, councils, agencies, initiatives, services, and with representatives of various organisations who support the Catholic understanding of marriage and the family. The Council for Marriage and the Family is based in the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare. See www.catholicbishops.ie/family.
The Family Prayer Book was launched on 28 September 2013 by Cardinal Seán Brady on behalf of the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in conjunction with Veritas. It is a book of prayers suitable for family prayer time, for those preparing for marriage, for couples starting out as new families, for personal prayer and for all who want to pray for marriage and family life. It is available from Veritas shops and from Veritas.ie.