Pope Francis has decided that the World Meeting of Families will be held in Dublin on 22 to 26 August 2018, with the theme "The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World". It is too early to know if Pope Francis will attend the WMOF.
The announcement of the date and theme for the 9th World Meeting of Families (WMF) was made at a press conference in the Vatican this morning, attended by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, and the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Vincenzo Pagila. The Archdiocese of Dublin is the host diocese for this event which takes place once every three years in different parts of the world.
Addressing today's press conference Archbishop Martin said, "The 2018 World Meeting will be held in Dublin, but it is an event of the entire Church."
The Archbishop said it was significant that Pope Francis chose the family as the theme of the first Synod of Bishops of his Pontificate and that he launched a new methodology for the Synod which would involve consultation with families. "Hopefully the World Meeting will be an important milestone in the application of the fruits of the Synodal process and of Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Letitia", he said.
The Dublin Meeting will be prepared for by a process of catechesis - based on Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) which was published last month - and this will take place right across the Church in Ireland during 2017 and 2018. It is hoped that something of that catechetical process will be shared with other Churches around the world, especially in Europe. Archbishop Martin said the Dublin World Meeting of Families, more than earlier Meetings, should be a world event even in its preparation.
"The World Meeting of Families in Dublin will hopefully be a festival of witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The vocation of Christian couples, supported by the Sacrament of Marriage, is a call to witness to that love and to experience the joy of bringing the love of Jesus to those who are troubled and challenged," said Archbishop Martin.
An Irish Catholic Church statement said it is too early to know if Pope Francis will attend the WMOF. His programme is normally announced just a few months prior to any event. But the Pope has expressed his desire to attend, and such a visit of the Pope would bring great joy to Irish Catholics and others. But the final decision will depend on many factors.
Given the age of Pope Francis, a possible visit of the Pope in 2018 would inevitably have a more restricted programme than that of the Papal Visit of Pope Saint John Paul II in 1979.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has welcomed the news. He said: "Personally, and on behalf of the Irish Bishops' Conference, I wish to thank Pope Francis for his inspiring choice of theme for the 9th World Meeting of Families in Dublin. The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World, clearly draws on both Apostolic Exhortations of the Holy Father, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) of November 2013, and Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love, On Love in the Family), published last month in April."
"After World Youth Day in Krakow this July, the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018 will be the next great global event in the calendar of the Universal Church. The Catholic Church in Ireland is blessed to have been chosen to host, for the first time, this special faith-filled event for
"It is my hope that families in every parish in the country will be able to participate in the preparation for the World Meeting, and that many families will take part in the various events being planned for late summer 2018. The World Meeting provides the perfect context for us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family in the life of the Church and in Irish society.
"Supporting families is one of the most important aspects of the mission of the Church. As a priest and bishop I have come to know and admire the wonderful work of many individuals and groups who are involved in family support and ministry here in Ireland. The World Meeting provides an opportunity to affirm their work and to inspire new initiatives to sustain the family as a source of joy, hope and cohesion in the Church and in society.
"Of course, as Pope Francis reminds us often, no family is perfect and every family has its struggles and wounds. The World Meeting of Families in Dublin will be a success if it helps us to celebrate and support family life whilst encouraging us to reach out in love to families who are overwhelmed by the challenges and pressures of everyday living.
Archbishop Eamon concluded: "Over the next two years, in our preparations for the World Meeting of Families 2018, the Catholic Church across the country has an opportunity to map out and advocate a new Charter and Mission for the family in the context of twenty-first century Ireland."