Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
4 Jun 2012
With flags flying from the 154 countries represented at the 7th World Meeting of Families the Pope arrived for the open air mass to a rousing reception which was the culmination of a three day Pastoral and Theological Congress on "Work and Celebration".
Those attending the various talks from prelates and professors included the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell and the Director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre of the archdiocese, Chris Meney.
"The importance of family time together around the meal table and in prayer, especially the rosary, was a common theme during the Congress," Chris Meney said.
"It was revealed how all family members have a mutual responsibility to one another and how each parent, son or daughter is defined by their relationships with others in the family, " he said.
At a media conference during the week Cardinal Pell said the church is always ready to defend and work with the family and to resist those secular forces which seek to reduce it to an economic unit.
Ron and Mavis Pirola coordinated the Australian pilgrim group - mostly families with about 20 children under the age of ten. Cardinal Pell or Bishop Brady provided Mass each day at one of the local churches in Milan however one of the highlights was a special Mass for the Australian pilgrims and friends on Saturday in the historic church of St Maria St Satrio built in the 15th century but which is attached to a chapel that was built in the 9th century.
During the final Mass yesterday the Pope expanded this theme saying the traditional family values and Sunday rest were key to escaping the ills of modern society.
He said;" Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord's day." Describing the tradition of resting on Sunday as an "oasis in which to pause....and celebrate the family."
He said especially in times of economic crisis and social unease, families should celebrate Sunday as "the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play and sport".
The Pope's words were also not lost on the politicians gathered in the financial and fashion centre of Italy when he recognised the struggles of many families as a result of the economic crisis, chiding and calling on politicians to keep their promises and asking businesses to take a genuine interest in their employees and families. The Pope also suggested those who are not struggling financially and are living in countries that are better off economically could sponsor a family who is facing financial difficulties in a poorer country.
Following the final Mass a small group of families were fortunate to share lunch with Pope Benedict XVI and a handful of Cardinals including Cardinal Pell.
The Green family, Parramatta Diocese delegates to the Conference represented Oceania joined the group of 15 families when they were driven under police escort to the Cardinal of Milan's residence near the Cathedral.
For Donna, Stuart, Anna and Jack is was an especially privileged moment - and possibly more so for Jack who is a young Parramatta seminarian. In fact when the Holy Father was told Jack was in the seminary he referred to his sister as "Sister Anna".
"Of course no pressure!, " Ann O'Brien, the senior manager of CatholicCare Social Services with the Diocese of Parramatta said.
The pontiff also announced the next World Meeting of Families will take place in Philadelphia in the United States in 2015.
And in a surprise comment the Pope said he hoped to meet with Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia in 2015 - "God willing".