Mexicans are gearing up to host a meeting of families from around the world. With just five days until the first events begin, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, provided an overview of the Sixth World Meeting of Families at the Vatican today.
The World Meeting of Families will take place January 14-18 in Mexico City and is meant to provide support to families, which are under attack throughout the world, Cardinal Antonelli explained.
Initially, organizers thought that Pope Benedict might attend the meeting, but as the event drew closer, Cardinal Antonelli announced that the Pope would not be coming on the advice of his doctors.
"The Holy Father will be 'especially present' at these events" with two video messages, he said at today’s press conference. The Pope’s first appearance will be a recorded message on the evening of Saturday, January 17, and a live message, via satellite, on Sunday, January 18 at the conclusion of the final Mass.
The meeting, which has the theme "The family, teacher of human and Christian values," will be attended by cardinals, bishops and delegations of families from all continents. Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone will also be present as the Pope’s personal representative.
As is the tradition in these world meetings - the last was held in Valencia, Spain, in July 2006 - the main celebrations will be preceded by a theological-pastoral congress.
This year's theological congress, to be attended by 8,000 people and held from January 14 -16, will focus on three main points: family relations and family values; the family and sexuality; and the educational vocation of the family. Lectures and workshops are also scheduled to take place on such subjects as: family relations and family values according to the Bible; values to be discovered and rediscovered; the family and the value of human life; organizations that help the family in the formation of values; family and the communications media; and the challenge of policymaking in support of life and the family.
The events for the World Meeting of Families also include two huge gatherings: a Rosary rally at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, January 17, and a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Bertone on Sunday, January 18.
The upcoming meeting has also produced some unique initiatives, such as a "Family Mosaic" comprised of thousands of photographs of families from all over the world arranged to create the image of Benedict XVI and a letter writing competition for single mothers within Mexico dubbed "A letter to my child."
As he closed the press conference, Cardinal Antonelli turned his attention to the state of the family in Mexico, which he said, "as in other parts of the world" is currently "experiencing a crisis." "Nonetheless," he added, "the family remains the principal institution of aid and solidarity."
He went on: "Abortion, divorce, euthanasia, questions associated with bioethics, though far removed from popular culture and practices, are also penetrating the mentality of Mexicans. Families today have to face ... the challenge of an individualist and market culture, founded on production and consumption. Unfortunately we have a mistaken concept of freedom, which is understood as self-sufficient autonomy. ... With this misguided mentality, laws often are passed - without broad social consensus and under the influence of small but active pressure groups, highly ideological and with large economic resources - that enable and facilitate abortion, rapid divorce and euthanasia."
"The Church is making great efforts of evangelization, supporting Christian families in their values and encouraging a wide-ranging strategy to promote and defend life from conception to natural death. ... Thanks to God," he concluded, "over the last few years numerous initiatives, both ecclesial and civil, have come into being in the service of the family ... which support this work."