Vatican City, Aug 30, 2015 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The World Meeting of Families event next month in Philadelphia aims to lead families to know their importance as a gift from God and to help them open their hearts to Jesus Christ, a priest involved in the event has said.
The family “is the place where we feel most loved, most protected, most safe, valued,” Father William Donovan, one of the meeting’s main organizers, told CNA. “In the natural economy of things, one could say after the gift of life itself, the second greatest gift God has given us is family.”
“The reason is because, once God gives us life, he also wants us to have a full life. He wants us to be loved, to be protected, to be safe, to be secure, to be valued,” said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest who also serves as Archbishop Charles Chaput’s liaison to the Pontifical Council for the Family.
This year's World Meeting of Families will take place from September 22-27 with the theme “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” Its closing Mass with Pope Francis will mark the end of his first visit to the United States. The meeting also includes presentations, testimonies, and other events.
“The idea is that we want to try to bring as many resources and assistance to the human family so that they can understand and execute its role as a place of love,” said Fr. Donovan.
Pope John Paul II founded the international event in 1994 to encourage families and to strengthen familial bonds. The event takes place every three years in a different city around the world.
Fr. Donovan said the event is a celebration of “the importance, the nature, the dignity, (and) the beauty of the family.” He added that the international gathering brings together pastoral resources on the family that participants can bring back to their respective countries and dioceses.
One of the tasks involved in promoting the World Meeting of Families was in spreading awareness, Fr. Donovan said. Although the event has been taking place for more than twenty years, many Americans were unaware of it.
“Of course, with the Holy Father`s coming, and that brings a great attention to it,” he said. “And, of course, the Holy Father is part of a long tradition. He represents Jesus Christ as the vicar of Christ, so his message will be full of hope, and joy.”
Observing the particular care which Pope Francis has shown to the family since the beginning of his papacy, Fr. Donovan recalled in particular the image of the family being the first school, the first Church, and – especially – the first hospital.
“This image is particularly captivating because when we talk about the families as being the first hospital, we talked about wounds, or weakness,” he said. “The Holy Father is interested in attending particularly to the wounds and weaknesses of the human family.”
The weeklong World Meeting of Families will be divided into three parts: an international congress from September 22-25, consisting of presentations by experts on the family; an artistic festival with Pope Francis, which will include testimonies by one family from each continent; and finally, outdoor Mass on Sunday in Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“Perhaps one can say that the human mind is nourished by the Congress, the human heart will be nurtured by the cultural celebration and the spirit will be nurtured by the Mass,” Fr. Donovan said.
The priest said meeting organizers wanted the selection of speakers to showcase both the uniqueness of individuals and the shared experience which being part of a family brings.
“Just like each person is a unique gift of God -- but there is something common in the human experience that we can all share about the dignity of a human person -- the same thing is with the family,” he said.
Fr. Donovan added that organizers wanted the speakers to convey how “every family is a unique and irreproducible gift of God, but there’s something common to all families.”
Any man and woman of goodwill, both from within and outside the Church, “can participate in the importance and the dignity of the family,” he said.
However, the primary aim of the organizers is to lead families closer to Christ.
“It would be wonderful if each person can take away something that makes him or her a better person, and improves their family: opening their minds and hearts to Christ will improve themselves and their families,” the priest said.
“This is our hope: to bring greater happiness, greater peace, greater security, and salvation, to our families.”
This year's World Meeting of Families will be the eighth of its kind, and the first to take place in the United States. The last World Meeting of Families was held in Milan in 2012.
The event takes place just weeks ahead of the Synod on the Family on Oct. 4-25. Its focus will be the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”
Vatican City, Aug 30, 2015 / 07:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis said that merely obeying the rules isn’t enough to make us holy, but that if we truly want to serve God our conversion has to be deeper, changing the heart.
“It's not exterior things which make us holy or not holy, but it's the heart that expresses our intentions, our choices and the desire to do everything out of love for God,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 30.
“External attitudes are the consequence of what we have decided in the heart, not the contrary: with external attitudes, if the heart doesn't change, we aren't true Christians.”
Pope Francis based his reflections on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, in which the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples for not following the tradition of “purifying” themselves by washing their hands before meals or when coming from the market.
Jesus’ response that “you disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition” has a strong prophetic tone that fills us with admiration for him, the Pope said.
“We feel that in him there is truth and that his wisdom frees us from prejudice,” he noted, but cautioned that Jesus’ words aren’t aimed for just the Pharisees, but are also meant to put us on guard.
With these words Jesus warns against the belief that a simple external observance of the law is enough to be considered a good Christian, he said.
“As then with the Pharisees, there is also the danger for us to consider ourselves good, or better than others based on the simple fact that we obey the rules, the customs, even if we don't love our neighbor, we are hard of heart, superior and proud,” Francis observed.
The literal observance of the rules is “sterile” unless the heart also changes in a visible way, seen through concrete attitudes such as being open to an encounter with God and his word, pursuing justice and peace, and helping the poor, the weak and the oppressed, he continued.
Francis said that that the harm done to the Church by “those people who say they are very Catholic and go to church often, but after, in their daily lives, within the family, talk badly about others,” is well-known within our communities, parishes and neighborhoods.
This, he said, “is what Jesus condemns, because this is a counter-Christian witness.”
Pope Francis then pointed to Jesus’ declaration in the Gospel passage that “nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile,” saying his words signal a deeper aspect of Christian life.
What Jesus underlines is the “primacy of interiority, of the heart,” the Pope noted, adding that the line between good and evil doesn't pass outside of us, “but within us.”
Francis then encouraged attendees to question themselves on their own internal state by asking where their heart is at.
Jesus, he noted, “said that your treasure is where your heart is. What is my treasure? Is it Jesus and his doctrine?”
“The heart must be purified and converted,” the Pope continued, adding that without a pure heart, “you can't truly have clean hands and lips which speak sincere words of love, mercy and forgiveness. Only a sincere and pure heart is able to do this.”
Pope Francis concluded his speech by praying that Mary would intercede in helping to obtain for them “a clean heart, free from every hypocrisy.”
After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, the Pope drew attention to the beatification of Syro-Catholic bishop Flavien-Michel Malké, who was killed in 1915 amid the Ottoman Empire's genocide against its Christian minorities.
The bishop was declared “Blessed” yesterday during a special liturgy celebrated by Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, at the convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa, Lebanon.
In the context of a brutal persecution against Christians, the bishop “was a tireless defender of the rights of his people, urging all to remain firm in the faith,” the Pope said, noting how even today Christians are still persecuted worldwide.
Bishop Malké’s beatification inspired “consolation, courage and hope” in those who suffer because of their faith, he said. He expressed his desire that the beatification would serve as “a stimulus for legislators and government leaders, so that religious freedom is ensured everywhere, and for the international community, that it put an end to violence and abuse.”
Pope Francis officially approved of Bishop Malké’s martyrdom during an Aug. 8 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. His beatification fell on the 100th anniversary of his martyrdom.