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This weekend we welcome our Holy Father Pope Francis to Ireland to celebrate the World Meeting of Families. It is only the second time in history that a pope has visited Ireland, and it may be a long time before another visit occurs, so this is certainly a historic weekend for Irish Catholics.
Pope Francis’ two-day visit is the high-point of the World Meeting of Families, which is an international congress held every three years since 1994, when Pope John Paul II celebrated the first World Meeting of Families in Rome. Our celebration this year in Ireland is the ninth such meeting. The event gives an opportunity for Catholics throughout the world to come together and reflect on the vocation of marriage and family life in the life of the Church, and on the challenges facing families of faith in today’s world. This past week, here in Ireland, a pastoral congress of various talks and conferences has taken place in Dublin’s RDS, given by various speakers from around the world representing all walks of the Church’s life, both young and old, lay and clerical, with a particular focus on the testimonies of married couples and families in living the gospel amidst the joys and difficulties of modern life.
Highlights of the Papal Visit
Pope Francis has arrived to celebrate the two primary events of the World Meeting of Families:
(1) The Festival of Families, celebrated in Croke Park this (Saturday) evening, which consists of a two-hour concert celebrating family life with music, song, dance and spoken word. Over 70,000 people will be in attendance. Pope Francis will deliver an address and will hear five testimonies by families from Ireland, Canada, India, Iraq and Africa. Their testimonies will focus on how the family unit has sustained and nourished them with hope and love through life’s most challenging moments, and of the importance of forgiveness, strength and hope in family life, and also on the impact of technology on family life. The Festival of Families also brings together a line-up of contemporary Irish singers, performers, choirs, musicians and dancers. Some well-known performers at this festival include Daniel O’Donnell, Andrea Bocelli, Riverdance, Nathan Carter, The Priests and Moya Brennan.
(2) The Closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families, celebrated in Dublin’s Phoenix Park today (Sunday) at 3pm. Up to 500,000 people will be in attendance at this Mass, the largest gathering of people in Ireland since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979. The final Mass will gather individuals and families from all around the world in thanksgiving and communion, and the location for the next World Meeting of Families will be announced.
Summary of the Papal Itinerary
Saturday 26th August – Pope Francis arrived on Saturday morning into Dublin airport, where he was taken to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet with President Higgins. From there he went to Dublin Castle to address a speech to representatives of the authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps. He next visited the Pro-Cathedral, and was welcomed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Then followed a visit to the Capuchin Day Centre, where he met Br. Kevin Crowley and saw first-hand the tremendous charitable work being done by the brothers in tending to the needs of the poor and homeless of Dublin. From there, the Holy Father proceeded to Croke Park for the Festival of Families.
Sunday 27th August – Pope Francis begins his day with a morning flight to Knock airport. He will be taken to Knock shrine at about 9.45am where 45,000 pilgrims will be awaiting him. He begins with a visit to the Apparition Chapel, where Our Lady, St. John and St. Joseph appeared in 1879, and he will then deliver his weekly Angelus address on the square in front of the shrine. He then returns by plane to Dublin for a brief lunch, before celebrating the final Mass in the Phoenix Park at 3pm. After the Mass the Holy Father will meet with and address the Irish Bishops privately, and then proceed to Dublin airport for a farewell ceremony, and board his return flight to Rome.
Pope Francis chose Ireland personally to celebrate this World Meeting of Families, and so we pray for his visit to us this weekend, that it may bring many graces and blessings of healing and renewal to the Church in Ireland, and to all our families. The lives of families in the Church today is something that is very dear to Pope Francis. In his recent encyclical on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), he writes, for instance: “The family is a sign of Christ. It manifests the closeness of God who is a part of every human life, since he became one with us through his incarnation, death and resurrection.” (no. 161)
In particular, we extend our good wishes and blessings to the many families from Tramore who have travelled to these events this weekend, May they travel safely and receive many blessings and enrichment from this uplifting, joyful celebration of Christian family life.