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July 11, 2022
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July 11, 2022

Family love

The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) was held in Rome, Italy from June 22–26, 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, who attended with his wife Tricia as part of the four-member contingent representing the Antilles Episcopal Conference, reports.

Day one began with Holy Mass celebrated in English at St Peter’s Basilica. Delegates then walked over to the nearby hall for the opening talk presented by Gregory and Lisa Popcak on ‘The domestic Church and Synodality’ (see Archbishop’s column, July 10)

The post-lunch panels had the more interesting contributions. Panel 3 – ‘Family love when in difficulty’ was moderated by Italian couple Cristina Elena Riccardi and Paolo Pellini. Each panel throughout the meeting comprised four presentations.

In Panel 3 the moderators spoke on ‘Family love in the test’, then Brazilian couple Andre and Karina Parreira – ‘Family love: wonderful and fragile’; South Africans Stephen and Sandra Conway – ‘Betrayal and Forgiveness’; and ‘The abandonment’, presented by Fr Erick Kagy and Danielle Bourgeois.

The Conways testified to the Retrouvaille movement weekends as they worked through the repercussions of Stephen committing adultery. They told delegates that there was a difference “between asking forgiveness and saying sorry”. They said that the healing process is “day by day” and spouses in similar situations need to be open to the process. “There are different stages of love… and feelings are neither right nor wrong but it’s what you do with those feelings.”

The presentation on abandonment identified the fears children have of feeling abandoned when their parents divorce. It can affect the children of a divorced couple as they end up “going from one dream to another, one breakup to another”.

Bourgeois, a divorcee, founded Solitude Myriam in Montreal, a community of separated or divorced men and women who choose to remain faithful to their first commitment and became consecrated celibates. There are three such communities in Canada and the hope is to start  in other countries like Switzerland, Chile, and Argentina. “God can heal a wounded heart,” said Bourgeois.

Fr Kagy, a priest who supports the community, said it was important that parishes treat divorced persons with compassion.

Panel 4 dealt with ‘Accompanying fatherhood and motherhood’. In their presentation on ‘We need fathers and mothers’, American couple Ryan and Mary Rose Verret said some young couples are fearful of becoming parents. Women are “afraid they don’t know how to mother” and likewise men are afraid they won’t know how to father.

The Verrets suggested for the young couple to be “loving and present” to their children. Being present will ensure the children “grow up understanding the language of love”, they explained.

The final presentation, ‘Accept the nascent life, always’, was done by Italian couple Gianluigi De Palo and Anna Chiara Gambini, parents of a child with Down Syndrome. They stressed that their son “is not Down Syndrome, but Down Syndrome is part of him”.



Theme for June 23: Family love
Conference 1 main talk: ‘The domestic Church and Synodality’ – Gregory and Lisa Popcak (USA)
Panel 1 theme: Spouses and priests together to build up the Church
Panel 2 theme: Young and old together for the Church of tomorrow

Conference 2 main talk: ‘Accompanying the early years of marriage’ – Eduardo and Monica Gonzalez Soriano (Spain)
Panel 3 theme: Family love when in difficulty
Panel 4 theme: Accompanying fatherhood and motherhood