"Big Four" Highlights


Family Meeting Opens

Church leaders affirm commitment to family

By Laura Ieraci, Catholic News Service

Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia will be "the city of family love" and the "world capital of families" during the four-day World Meeting of Families, said Archbishop Vincenzo

Archbishop Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, at the opening ceremony Sept. 22 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

More than 17,500 participants from more than 100 countries registered for the four-day congress, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

"All have come to affirm their commitment to the family as the foundation of a fruitful life," the archbishop said.

The numbers are expected to swell to the tens of thousands for the major events with Pope Francis, Sept. 26-27, including the Festival of Families and an outdoor papal Mass. About 1,300 clerics will be available to distribute Communion to the faithful at the Mass.

Antonio Bañuelos and his wife, Mayra, visit the Knights of Columbus exhibit with their children, Cristina, Antonio and Katya. Bañuelos is Iowa state secretary.

The theme of the eighth international World Meeting of Families is "Love is Our Mission, The Family Fully Alive."

Dozens of speakers are expected to address issues that families face, such as raising children, dealing with grief, intimacy between spouses, caring for members with disabilities, and the role of grandparents, said Archbishop Chaput.

Archbishop Chaput celebrated the opening Mass and began his homily with an explanation.

"When I was a newly ordained priest 45 years ago, many of us often felt free to find readings that matched what we wanted to say for a special occasion," the archbishop said.

"As I got older – and I hope, wiser – I decided that what I did was wrong, and that I should be faithful to the word of God as the church gives us, and I feel compelled to preach on the word that God has given us today."

Referring to the day's Old Testament reading from Ezra, Archbishop Chaput noted that it comes at a pivotal moment in the Israelites' history: "Ezra was written about 420 years before the birth of Christ, at a time when the people of Israel are returning from the Babylonian exile to the Holy Land. There, they face two dangers – and they're very much the same dangers that we face today as well.

"Their first temptation is that they will be influenced by the pagan culture that they are coming home to. The second temptation is that they will not be faithful to the covenant that God has established for his people."

Emphasizing that the modern world has its own manifestations of these two dangers, Archbishop Chaput urged those gathered to "learn from the example of Jesus and how to avoid those temptations." He also said the church "is first the church of the home -- the church of Mom and Dad -- and we are taught how to love one another through the family." But in the day's Gospel reading – Chapter 8, verses 19 to 21, of St. Luke's Gospel – Jesus seems to say that there is "something more important than family life," he said.

Family ties are important, of course, but in the kingdom of God, "human ties of affection come secondary to faithfulness to the love of God," and we should love God and his commandments with "all our minds and all our strength and all we have first," the archbishop said.

Copyright ©2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops