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Ireland launches countdown to World Meeting of Families

A group of volunteers for the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin

KNOCK, Ireland – The yearlong lead-in programme of catechesis on the family was launched here on 22 Aug 2017, exactly one year to the World Meeting of Families on 21 Aug 2018.

Father Timothy Bartlett, general secretary of the World Meeting of Families, said: “I was 14 years in 1979, and I was very disappointed by the fact that the Pope (John Paul II) did not come to the North.  The visit was cancelled at the last minute for security reasons.  If next year Pope Francis will be  with us, it will be the first time ever the Pope can visit Northern Ireland.”

Bartlett was raised in Ardoyne, north of Belfast.  His vocational story has been marked by the Troubles, the riots revolving around sectarian violence among Protestants and Catholics for over 40 years and that have directly marked his family.

Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain from a political point of view, but on the ecclesial side, it is an integral part of the Catholic church (the headquarters of the Primate is in Armagh, one of the six counties of the North).

Father Bartlett was Cardinal Brady’s secretary at the time when the latter was the Primate. He has been working for peace and reconciliation, and had to also to deal with the painful abuse scandals.

He said jokingly that he has been “lent” to Dublin during this year of preparation. Sure, the choice of a secretary from outside the diocese is unusual, but perhaps it is a sign of change in the Irish Church.

The impression that Father Bartlett wanted to give to the world next year is of a “welcoming, hospitable and joyful” Church. It won’t be about dwelling on high-level theological issues, but about declaring the “The Gospel of the family, joy for the world” which is the theme of the 2018 meeting.

In the summoning letter to the World Meeting of Families published in March 2016, Bartlett said, the Pope explicitly asked the world meeting to be an occasion for reflection with families and for families.

“We have prepared a programme accessible both to our local parishes and internationally, through online tools: the Amoris app (which will be online in the coming weeks), and the website which has the slogan ‘We talk Family! Let’s be Family.’

The spokesman said there will then be six mini television studios from around the world where broadcasts will be recorded on the subject. And four cartoons for children will be produced.

The meeting’s icon, which was presented during the Knock meeting, will tour the 26 dioceses of Ireland. Together with the programme, also the official prayers, already translated into several languages, have been presented and published on the website. – Vatican Insider

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