There is speculation that Pope Francis may visit Ireland after he announced the next World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin in 2018.
The meeting is held every three years and is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. Sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, it is described as a “celebration of family life and of the Catholic church’s commitment to support families”.
The pontiff made the announcement last night of the Dublin meeting while attending the last mass of this year’s world gathering in Philadelphia. It marked the final stage of his three-city visit to the United States.
Almost one million people attended the mass in Philadelphia. Before the ceremony the Pope met Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and the Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.
His announcement of Dublin as the next venue raised speculation that Pope Francis might visit Ireland when it takes place in 2018. A spokesman for the Dublin archdiocese would, however, not be drawn on the issue.
She pointed out that while many previous such meetings were attended by the pope of the day, including this week in Philadelphia, not all such meetings had been attended by the pontiff.
Archbishop Martin said he hoped the holding of the meeting in Ireland would be an occasion to take up the programme of the Synod to strengthen the place of the family in handing onto the faith in the face of many new challenges.
He said the family in Ireland was strong and the church was called to take up the challenge of ensuring that future Catholic generations were prepared to live their marriage as an itinerary of faith.
The announcement just before the start of the world synod of Bishops which takes place in the Vatican from October 5th to 26th – themed, “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”.
Theme of family
The date of the gathering and the programme have yet to be decided but it is expected to include various parts of Ireland.
Previous meetings were held Rome in 1994, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1997, Rome in 2000, Manila, the Philippines in 2003, Valencia, Spain, in 2006, Mexico City, in 2009 and Milan in 2012.
During his visit to the US the pope spoke on the theme of the family, referring to education, child-parent relationships, employment and poverty.
Speaking on Saturday night at a prayer vigil in Philadelphia Pope Francis said: “I think of all those families which lack access to basic health services.
“Families which, when faced with medical problems, especially those of their younger or older members, are dependent on a system which fails to meet their needs, is insensitive to their pain and forces them to make great sacrifices to receive adequate treatment.”
He also said no society could be called healthy if it did not leave real room for family life. “We cannot think that a society has a future when it fails to pass laws capable of protecting families and ensuring their basic needs, especially those of families just starting out.”
Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin welcomed the announcement that the event would take place in Ireland.
“Despite many challenges, the family remains at the heart of faith and of so much that we hold important in this country,” he said.
“ Our preparations for the World Meeting of Families will inspire us as we implement, over the next few years, the recommendations which will emerge from the Synod on the Family in Rome next month.”