We plan our course, but the Lord determines our steps…
July 26, 2022
Earthquake? No, just the Metro
July 26, 2022

Forgiveness – the path to freedom

The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) was held in Rome, Italy from June 22–26. 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, concludes his reports.

Saturday, February 1, 2020: six siblings and their cousin walk along a footpath to a nearby ice cream shop. On their way, a drunk and drugged driver run them over. Three of the siblings were hospitalised and survived, but Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah, and their cousin Veronique Sakr die on the spot.

Parents Daniel and Leila Abdallah of Sydney, Australia clung to their Christian faith.

The Abdallahs

The Abdallahs brought many delegates to tears and received standing ovations as they shared their story – ‘Forgiveness as the way to holiness’ – on the final day at the WMOF, Saturday, June 25. By coincidence, Antony would have turned 16 on June 26.

The Lebanese Christian Maronite couple said it was through nightly prayer and recitation of the rosary, before and after the funerals, that they were able to see the tragedy was “much bigger than us”. Thousands joined them in their grief and witness.

Daniel said he experienced sleepless nights. “The day my children entered eternal life, I faced a choice … do I take the path of construction, or do I take the path of destruction? Do I seek to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol, or do I choose to embrace this pain?… I have to forgive every day to not retreat into hatred…to not be enslaved by the accident.”

Leila said while she remains heartbroken, she is at peace. “Everyone has a cross. It’s not if we will suffer but when we will suffer.”

Their witness to forgiveness has grown as their call for February 1 to be declared ‘i4give Day’ in Australia as a remembrance of the four children, was supported by the government. Their hope is to spread the message of forgiveness to Lebanon, other countries of the Middle East, and eventually the entire world. “People are yearning for forgiveness. It is a message for all humanity. It is the path to freedom….Forgiveness is a choice you make.”

In March 2022, the Abdallahs celebrated the birth of a new daughter, Selina, named by one of her sisters in honour of deceased daughters Sienna and Angelina.

The other presentation on the closing day that was well received was delivered by Indonesia couple Agnes Sandra Wigianti and Taufiq Hidayat. The title of their talk was ‘When a spouse is an unbeliever’.

Married for 21 years with two children, Wigianti, a Catholic, converted to Hidayat’s Muslim faith. Wigianti kept her distance from her in-laws for the six years she was a Muslim as she described the time away from her Catholic faith as “difficult”.

Eventually, she returned to her Catholic faith and their interfaith marriage received a dispensation. Hidayat converted to Catholicism in 2021 after they attended a Worldwide Marriage Encounter retreat.

Theme for June 25:

Way of holiness

Conference 5 main talk: ‘Family as a path of holiness’ – Francesco Beltrame Quattrocchi, Andrea Biccheiga and Patrizia Marchegiani (Italy)

Panel 9 theme:

Paths to holiness

Panel 10 theme:

Married couples and families: holiness in everyday life