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.
This second day of the meeting was the most interesting. The morning session dealt with the effects on the family of social media, addictions, and violence.
The first speaker was Italian technology expert Raffaele Buscemi on ‘Being Christian in the digital age’. He said the internet was merely a tool to be used and people should be the same whether online or offline.
French couple, Guillaume and Sandrine Haudebourg, followed Buscemi. They spoke on ‘Centre the family on Christ’. They said digital technology was a “gateway into homes” and Christians should use the internet to reach out to the world, reaching all family generations, but it was “a means not an end in itself”. They described digital technology as “versatile and adaptable” and people should not be afraid to enter “the digital continent”.
Massimo and Patrizia Paloni are Italian missionaries based in the Netherlands with their 12 children. Their topic was ‘Transmitting the faith to today’s young people’.
They said there was “a loss of a sense of God due to the rapid secularisation of society”, and therefore it was important to have families that give “testimonies of love”. Share your faith to young people, they told parents, as they need the faith of their parents.
Brazilian couple Fabiola Goulart and Gustavo Huguenin answered the question ‘Social media: an environment for our children?’ Their answer was ‘yes’ as social media can bring people closer together.
Admitting there were negative impacts of social media, they stressed the connections between identidade (identity), diálogo (dialogue) and testemunho (witness). Social media has helped build bridges between young people or nativos digitais (digital natives) and their parents and older people.
Italian missionary couple based in Argentina, María Paula Casanova and Valerio Santoro, dealt with ‘In addictions’. They said whenever a family member is grappling with an addiction, the entire family is affected. Therefore, the family needs to be involved in recovery so that the family is “reborn together with the loved one”.
There was rapt attention for the final talk of panel 6, ‘When there is violence in the family’, presented by American couple, Christauria Welland-Akong and her husband Michael Akong.
Welland-Akong began asking the delegates for a moment of silence for those who have been killed in domestic/family situations.
They were creative, using a question-and-answer format with Michael asking the question like a reporter, and Christauria responding with the aid of a Power Point presentation filled with statistics and appropriate quotes from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Welland-Akong called on Catholics to use the ‘See, Judge, Act’ approach and spoke of warning signs, the societal effects of domestic violence, and the effects on the children. “Children see, children do.”
She said for Catholics, one of the first persons people turn to is their priest. As such, she called on clergy to get educated about domestic violence, to listen, and know of the resources available in their respective countries.
She ended urging “education, encouragement and engagement” in all Catholic dioceses to confront the issue of violence within the family.
The American couple received widespread applause and were surrounded by delegates seeking more information about their organisation, Pax in Familia (paxinfamilia.org).
Theme for June 24: Vocation
Conference 3 main talk: ‘Identity and mission of Christian families’ – Benoît and Véronique Rabourdin (France)
Panel 5 theme: Being Christians in the digital age
Panel 6 theme: Vocation and mission in the existential periphery
Conference 4 main talk: ‘Marriage catechumenate’ – Giovanni Nuzzi (Italy)
Panel 7 theme: The formation of caregivers and formators: laity, presbyters, and seminarians