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Focus: Insights

The Year of 
Amoris Laetitia

Interview with Gabriella Gambino
Under-secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life

The ‘polycentric and widespread’ format of the World Meeting of Families will allow for diocesan initiatives to take place simultaneously with those being held in Rome with the Pope. We spoke with Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, about this unprecedented element and others related to the upcoming 10th  World Meeting of Families 2022, entitled: Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness .

A Local and Worldwide meeting

Undersecretary Gambino, the Tenth World Meeting of Families promises to be an original experience with a greater and more widespread participation of families. Is this true?

Yes, in fact, initially the pandemic disoriented us a lot, but the Holy Father's idea of a meeting which, for the first time, would take place in many different locations throughout the world is proving to be extraordinarily fruitful for many pastoral realities and families themselves. We well know that it will not be easy for pastors to thin how they can have a local, diocesan or parish event. It will undoubtedly be necessary for lay people and pastors to join forces to set up organizing and pastoral teams, to listen to proposals from families, and during that week to provide moments of celebration, sharing experiences and testimonies, reflections, and proclamations. However, for the first time, everyone will be able to follow the Meeting in Rome both in their diocese and via direct streaming.

It's really an opportunity for everyone to participate. To assist pastors, we sent to Episcopal Conferences some guidelines with concrete suggestions for organizing the event, together with the program. The pastoral congress themes are available in a pastoral kit together with liturgical suggestions. There has been an enormous amount of work behind all these initiatives which we hope will make the priests and bishops involved in this ecclesial proposal feel accompanied. But they will need the help of families, adults and children.

Can families help the Church to be more synodal?

The meeting takes place within the particular context of the synodal path undertaken by the Church and in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops. It seems a very significant coincidence…?

I would say providential. Amoris laetitia, as the impetus for this world meeting, calls us to have a profound desire for discernment regarding the style and manner by which pastoral service is carried out. The Holy Father is inviting us, under the guidance of the Spirit, to graft this into the synodal journey of communion, participation and mission for all members of the People of God, including families. Thus we decided to include reflections on the contribution and the ecclesiological and pastoral significance of the family in the Church in the Meeting’s program. Families today need not only to rediscover themselves as part of the Church but as architects of the Church in a spirit of true communion.

This communion arises from a sincere listening to families that is then followed by initiatives that are a fruit of what emerges from this listening. It is necessary to try to combine the process of ecclesial discernment with the Church-family relationship. We need to ask ourselves slightly different questions from those of the past. For example: How can families help the Church to be more synodal? What can the Church learn from how discerning, listening and welcoming occurs in families? How can love enter into discernment as it does in family life? What can the Church learn from the way parents, children, siblings and relatives all seek to love one another despite frailties, vulnerabilities, conflicts and diverse points of view? How can this synodal process at the local level open up new paths for families in the Church's mission? If we can see things from this perspective, a more fruitful dialogue can be generated in the Church.

Accompaniment in the early years of marriage

In anticipation of the world meeting, a forum on the pastoral application of Amoris laetitia took place last June in Rome. Did those who participated in the forum focus on a particular theme?

Among the central themes was marriage preparation and the accompaniment of couples in their first years of married life. It is a crucial theme today from the perspective of marriage catechumenate and is one of the points repeatedly emphasized by Pope Francis. He is insisting on the possibility for a robust program inspired by the path of Christian initiation which would allow engaged couples to enter into marriage with greater awareness and understanding. It is also necessary to already start such catechesis for young people in order to help them see marriage as a vocation.  In the various stages of preparation for the sacrament, focus should be placed on conversion and personal discernment, also from the aspect of being a couple.

Accompaniment should not be neglected during the first years of marriage. As we know, this is one of the most difficult and delicate pe