Meeting with the Pope in Milan


CatholicCare Social Services - Diocese of Parramatta Senior Manager Ann O’Brien reports from The World Meeting of Families (30 May to 3 June). Ann and her husband Peter represented the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta at the Conference in Milan, Italy, along with Diocesan Seminarian Jack Green, his parents Stuart and Donna and sister Anna.

World Meeting of Families News Story
Gathering at the Duomo - the main cathedral in Milan - for the meeting with the Holy Father.
The third day of the Conference in Milan (1 June) has been another full day of talks, lectures, workshops and then the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Duomo (Cathedral) in the late afternoon/evening.

We had two major talks in the morning which were quite inspiring. The first from a woman professor of sociology who was also a theologian. She was able to give a good summary of the important role of the family in creation and the importance of the mutuality and complimentarity of man and woman.

The second lecture was provided by Cardinal Sean O'Malley (Irish-born but now in Boston, USA). He portrayed the importance of family with many humorous anecdotes and examples that the whole audience could identify with.

His point was about the need to go back to the basics in our complex world. All the information, values and examples we need are embedded in the Word of God (both Old and New Testaments) and the teachings of the Church. He referred to Catholic Social Teaching and various Papal Encyclicals to emphasis his points. His basic message was that as Catholics we must be disciples and certainly be instrumental in bringing our children up in the faith and not leave this to others such as the school or the parish.

He also emphasised that parish life needed to be invigorated and be much more a part of each Catholic family's life. He made the interesting point that recent research has shown that the example of a father practicing and living his faith is now gaining much more influence on the faith development of the children in the family. He had strong messages for Catholic employers and decision makers about supporting family life. Ultimately, he urged us all to be much more visible as disciples.

Following the summary by the Italian cardinal who was facilitating this session, we went to lunch with the other 3,000 really hungry people. We had had food for the soul and now we really needed food for the body.

We then made our way to the afternoon session which was about support for families affected by separation and divorce. There were testimonies from individuals affected by this and some very sad stories but also with hope as they recounted the assistance they were given by different groups or associations within the Church.

This reminded me especially of the importance of our Solo Parent Ministry and the great work of Sr Eileen Quade and her volunteers and co-workers. There was also a presentation by the Retrouvaille group - an international program for troubled marriages run along the lines of the marriage encounter movement.

Importance of the family as the domestic Church

World Meeting of Families News Story
Pope Benedict on the Duomo's big screen.

Then we made our way to the Duomo in the centre of Milan for the meeting with the Holy Father. This was quite a feat, as there were thousands gathering there.

We finally managed to get into our special 'reserved' space - with the other 3,000 Conference participants and the atmosphere was electric and filled with anticipation.

Pope Benedict gave a history of the Church in Milan, the history of the Duomo and the Bishops and Popes that had come from Milan.

He welcomed all the families and emphasised the importance of the family as the domestic Church and the fundamental role of the family in bringing children to life and educating them in the faith and to know God.

It was hot and crowded, but you got a real sense being there of the great love so many people have for the Pope. The meeting lasted for about three hours and by the time we got back to our hotel it was nighttime.


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