Preparations for what has become one of the most significant regular ecclesial events, World Youth Day, are taking place in a set of offices near the tiny Piazza San Calisto in the Trastevere section of Rome. The Pontifical Council for the Laity, under the direction of His Eminence Francis Cardinal Stafford, is entrusted with this event. Throngs of exuberant youth are already set to come to Rome in the summer of the year 2000 for this extraordinary event.
But in the offices right above the Council for the Laity, preparations are being made for another world gathering to take place in October of the year 2000, also in Rome.
The Pontifical Council for the Family is preparing for the Third World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families. With a structure similar to that of World Youth Day, namely, an extended vigil in the presence of the Holy Father, marked with prayer, song, Scripture, and testimony, and a magnificent Sunday Liturgy the next day, the World Meeting with Families is a moment when the Church touches the root of the very hope of the world's future.
"The future of humanity passes through the family," the Holy Father has often declared. The family, indeed, is the fundamental cell of human society. Strong families constitute the basis for a strong society. Weak families mean a society in collapse.
Pope John Paul II established the Pontifical Council for the Family, entrusting it with a twofold mission: Family and Life.
Regarding the Family, the Council "…promotes pastoral attention to families and favors their rights and dignity in the Church and in civil society so that they can better fulfill their own functions" (Pastor Bonus, art. 139).
Regarding the gift of Life, the Council "…supports and coordinates initiatives for the defense of human life from conception and in favor of responsible procreation" (art. 141, sec.3). The pro-life activities of the Church, in other words, fall under the responsibility of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
That makes the Meeting of the Holy Father with Families in October, 2000 one of the most significant worldwide pro-life events of the Church's celebration of the New Millennium.
Given the leadership, for better or for worse, which the United States plays in the world scene in matters of the defense of life, would it not be a fitting sign to have families from every diocese present at this marvelous event?
The first World Meeting with Families occurred in Rome during the International Year of the Family, 1994. The Second was last year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Now the Third, being in the Jubilee year, will again occur in Rome. Official announcements in regard to the theme and official details will be forthcoming. In the meantime, why not consider making the pilgrimage to Rome, with families from across the globe? Let us pray that this event will be a strong call to the world to make the New Millennium one in which life and the family flourish.