Opening Day at 7th World Meeting of Families

30 May 2012
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30 May 2012, Comments: 0

The Opening Day of the 7th World Meeting of Families on May 30th in Milan offered delegates a rich and varied menu of activities. Cardinal Scola of Milan expressed his happiness at hosting the World Meeting, and the opportunity to “open our hearts and the doors of our homes to you – thank you for being here.” After a performance from the Oscar Theatre ballerinas Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family expressed, on behalf of the whole gathering, sadness at the recent earthquake in Emelia, before welcoming representatives from 150 countries of the world.  The theme for this 7th World Meeting is family, work and celebration, three values, he said, that scripture has presented as blessing, gifts for society and frameworks of interpersonal communion. “I wish you all a happy stay and fruitful work”, he concluded, before formal prayers were shared and the specially commissioned Family Meeting hymn sung.

The first session was chaired by Cardinal Carrera from Mexico, venue for the 6th World Meeting. He felt, he said, that he had been given this honour as a way of passing on the torch. First at the lecturn was Cardinal Ravasi who spoke about the family, a work of creation and a celebration of salvation, drawing heavily on scripture.  He used the metaphor of the house, which in Hebrew means both the physical structure and the lineage of the family, and quoted Jorges Luis Borges: ‘every house is a chandelier where lives burn as hidden flames’.  Flames are not only bright, he said, they are also hot. Continuing the metaphor of the house, he described the married couple as the foundation,  their interpersonal communion as a duality that becomes unity and a unity that reflects duality. Referring to Genesis, the rib, he said, is fundamental to understanding the equality between the couple.  The Talmud warns men against making a woman cry, he said, because ‘God counts her tears’ – a woman has come from a man’s rib not his feet to be walked on, or his head to be superior, but from his side to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.

Professor Luigino Bruni spoke next, providing a robust and thought provoking treatise on the family, work and celebration in today’s world, focussing especially on the common thread of gratuitousness. He drew attention to the importance of work in human dignity, citing the observation by Primo Levi that even in Auschwitz pride was taken in doing a job well. He urged parents that children should not be paid to do chores but should rather receive money as reward or gift – urging us to break the insidious cycle of market economics (incentivisim) and consumerism in the home. A bed needs to be made because it is a good work, he said, rather than one with monetary value. We gain great happiness from our work – money is not the only reason for working – and so we have a moral and spiritual duty towards our young people to help them find their vocation in work. He talked of the importance of celebration in work as a way to build that communion between all those involved which will carry the organisation through hard times and enable people to give of their best. Managers, he said, need to find ways to affirm the enthusiasm and gifts that people donate to their work above and beyond that indicated by their contract. Most poignantly given the unemployment statistics he reminded us that work and ‘feast’ give meaning and relief to each other – without work there is no feast.

The afternoon provided a choice of workshops. Delegates from England and Wales attended one on the role of media, particularly social media, in family life and work and another on the role of grandparents in witnessing faith and offering practical assistance to families. Today we also connected with colleagues and delegates from South Africa, Ireland and the United States.

Photos on this page show Cardinal Scola welcoming delegates, the English language verse of the Family Meeting hymn, Clara and Charles Donnelly (Diocese of Shrewsbury) with Maire Printer of the Catholic Grandparents’ Association and Charles & Clara with Rt Rev John Hine, Chair of the Bishops’ Committee for Marriage & Family Life and Elizabeth Davies, Marriage & Family Life Project Officer.

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