Plans for an International Family Centre in Nazareth, were announced at the Vatican on Tuesday, by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Dr Salvatore Martinez, national president of Renewal in the Holy Spirit. The centre will be erected on a hill overlooking the city centre and the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Archbishop Paglia noted that it was John Paul II, who wanted to be remembered as 'the Pope of the family', and announced the idea during the Rio de Janeiro World Encounter of Families in 1997.
Realization of the plan was delayed until 2009, shortly before Pope Benedict XVI's pastoral visit of the Holy Land, when the Secretary of State and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family at the time, asked if the ecclesial movement Renewal in the Holy Spirit was available to undertake the project.
After long negotiations with the ecclesiastical, civil, and political authorities in Israel an executive plan was approved. In 2012, during the World Encounter of Families in Milan, the International Family Centre in Nazareth was presented as a 'working sign' of the Pontifical Council for the Family. In October of that same year, Benedict XVI gave proper legal form to the project, ordering the erection of the Vatican Foundation International Family Centre in Nazareth with public and civil Vatican juridical personality, as well as the the 'ad experimentum' approval of its Statute. The Foundation was officially established on 18 January, and is based at the Pontifical Council for the Family and presided over by Dr Salvatore Martinez, national president of Renewal in the Holy Spirit.
Referring to the project's deep feeling, Archbishop Paglia noted Benedict XVI's words during the blessing of the Centre's first stone on Mount Precipice in Nazareth in 2009: "We pray that this will promote strong family life in this region, will offer support and assistance to families everywhere, and encourage them in their irreplaceable mission to society."
He said: "It will be a centre for spirituality of the family, for formation in parental and familiar life, of pastoral care for for workers, of preparation for the new evangelization, and activities founded in the ecclesial and social subjectivity of the family. It will be a permanent observatory of study on family ministry in the world, especially in the Holy Land and the Middle East. And it will be a material support to families in need, especially in the Holy Land, through international fund raising projects."
"There are places," the archbishop concluded, "endowed with an extraordinary evocative and symbolic strength. Nazareth is one of those. It is the place where Jesus grew up, where his house was, his family. It is a land - today even more than at this time - full of tension and pain. But perhaps precisely because of this, it is a land that more than any other claims the right to peace and universal brotherhood. Christian families can become
co-authors of this dream.
Dr Martinez expressed the desire that it "become a privileged place for spreading the 'Gospel of the Family', a 'showcase' of all the beautiful, the good, the true, and the just that the family offers and witnesses to in the world."
He also noted that the Centre, built upon property held by the Holy See as neighbouring property, will be divided into two buildings on a one hectare area. Once fully operational it will consist of a 500 seat auditorium, a diocesan pastoral centre, meeting and study rooms, a 500 seat church, lodging for a residential community, a 100 room hotel with restaurant designed to accommodate families, a play area and outdoor children's entertainment areas, and exterior passages, car parks, and leisure areas. The total cost of the work will be approximately 12 million euro and the property will always belong to the Holy See.
Dr Martinez also announced the launch of the 'Portal of the Family', a website offering a range of free services from doctors, psychologists, economists, lawyers, educators, and priests to support grandparents, parents, and children in their life journeys. To begin with, it is only available in Italian.