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Families must be witnesses

The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) was held in Rome, Italy from June 22–25, 2022. The venue for the Pastoral Congress was the Paul VI Hall. For three days, June 23–25, presentations were made by speakers from around the world. Editor Raymond Syms  attended with his wife Tricia as part of the four-member contingent representing the Antilles Episcopal Conference, reports.

Built with a capacity of over 6,000 seats, the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall was not filled. After all, organisers said they were expecting a maximum of 2,000 delegates for this edition of the World Meeting of Families. Still, the air was filled with expectation as #WMOF22 was about to begin. It was supposed to be #WMOF21 but two years of Covid-19 scuppered those plans.

The pandemic also forced organisers to reduce the number of delegates that could attend. There were other adjustments made because of the pandemic. The Festival of Families in the presence of Pope Francis opened the meeting. Previous WMOF editions had the Festival being held later.

There was singing and music by the three tenors of II Volo, and the Form-Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana.

The audience then heard testimonies: by a Ukrainian mother and daughter being hosted by an Italian parish; Congolese couple, Paul and Germaine Balenza, on the brink of divorce spoke of reconciliation and healing after the intervention of family, friends and a Church organisation for married couples; Roberto and Maria Anselma Corbella, with tears in their eyes, recalled their daughter Chiara, who died ten years ago of a tumour, for which she had delayed treatment because she was pregnant with her son Francesco. Today Chiara is a Servant of God.

Finally, Zakia Seddiki, widow of Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio, killed in an assassination attempt in Congo. With her, were her three daughters and her mother, who have always been close to her in these difficult months.

Pope Francis’ address for the opening reflected on those testimonies. An excerpt: “We must live with our eyes pointed towards Heaven…What is the word that the Lord wants to say with our lives to the people we meet? What further step does He ask of our family today? Listen. Allow yourselves to be transformed by him, so that you too can transform the world and make it a ‘home’ for those who need to be welcomed, for those who need to meet Christ and feel loved….Each of your families has a mission to fulfill in the world, a witness to give.”

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