Saint John Paul II, in response to the need of families everywhere, asked the Pontifical Council for the Family to organize the First World Meeting of Families. It was held in Rome in 1994. The others have been in Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, in Philadelphia during the week of September 22-27, 2015.
What is the World Meeting of Families?
Pope St. John Paul II, hailed as the Pope of the Family, created the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome to explore the critical role the family plays in society and to give families opportunities to talk about the challenges and blessings that all families have.
This year’s theme is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive”. It was inspired by the early Church Family, St. Irenaeus, who wrote “the Glory of God is (humanity) fully alive.” The glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves – and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family. His Holiness, Pope Francis also inspired the theme. He embodies the message of mercy, joy and love at the heart of the Gospel.
What happens at this meeting?
The World Meeting of Families is a week-long international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration that draws participants from around the globe. All families are invited and there are various registration fees.
It seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society. The World Meeting of Families consists of a Theological Adult Congress, and a concurrent Youth Congress, followed by The Festival of Families and the Papal Mass.
The Adult Congress is for ages 18 and up, and consists of 6 keynote addresses presented by internationally known and engaging speakers. These keynotes are followed by multiple breakout sessions to address ways to strengthen the bonds of family. The content can be viewed on the website under Speakers.
The Youth Congress is for ages 6-17 and is an interactive program where young people can build, create, play, listen, serve and embrace the Mission of Love that brings Families Fully Alive.
A Visit From Pope Francis
On Saturday night, the Festival of Families will take place. This is a celebratory event for families that will include different types of cultural and musical performances. The Festival of Families will be attended by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
On Sunday, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The time for the Mass has not yet been determined. The Mass will be open to the public. Pope Francis will not be attending the Congress, but is expected to attend the Festival of Families and Sunday Papal Mass.
Where is it being held?
The World Meeting is being held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 22nd and end on Sunday, September 27th, 2015. It will take place in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the heart of Philadelphia, from September 22nd to September 25th.
The Festival of Families and Papal Mass will both take place outside on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, September 26th to the 27th.The Congress, Festival of Families & Papal Mass are three separate events. Registration is not required for the Festival of Families nor the Papal Mass.
What is the schedule?
The program has yet to be finalized but we do know that there will be an Opening Celebration on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 followed by three days of fun for everyone, including: Mass, General Sessions, and Breakout Sessions that allow plenty of time for faith sharing. There will also be Adoration, Sacrament of Reconciliation, and fun activities.
On Saturday night, the Festival of Families will be held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and on Sunday Mass will be celebrated by the Holy Father. The most recent schedule of events is located on the World Meeting of Families website under “Agenda”. Registration Information is also available.
What is the Icon of the Holy Family?
This modern icon was painted by Neilson Carlin especially for this 8th World Meeting of Families. As planets find perfect balance and harmony revolving around the sun, so do we find perfect order when we establish Christ at the center of our families.
His light illuminates our hearts and minds, and our interactions with others. Consequently, the piece was designed to focus the viewer on the centrality of Christ in the image, and remind us of the necessity of his role as the focal point of our lives. From front to back, the figures have been intentionally layered to indicate the proximity of their relationship to Christ.
- In the extreme foreground, practically walking out of the canvas, stands the infant, his eyes fixed firmly on the viewer, extending a sign of blessing situated in the exact center of the painting.
- Next to him, the Blessed Mother, with a gaze slightly beyond her son as she looks toward his passion, fully aware of the trial yet to begin for her family for the sake of all families.
- Just behind stands St. Joseph, gently resting a loving and protective hand on his wife; his hand completes the chain of connection that begins with Christ’s hand, which rests gently on his mother’s.
- Behind all stand Mary’s mother and father, SS. Ann and Joachim. They, along with Mary and Joseph, all turn in the direction of Christ. With pensive faces, their joy comes not from the removal of suffering with the coming of Our Lord, but from a firm and steadying reliance on Christ as their morning star, guiding them through the storms of life.
- Surrounding the figures is an architectural framework loosely mimicking the ciborium over the altar at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter & Paul in Philadelphia. This framework contains elements very specific to the time and place of the event for which the piece was commissioned.
- On the upper left is a depiction of the coat-of-arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia where the 2015 World Meeting of Families will convene.
- On the upper right is the coat-of-arms of His Holiness, Pope Francis, under whose pontifical aegis the meeting will be guided.
- On the bottom, a reminder of the year (MMXV or 2015) in which the World Meeting of Families will be celebrated. Situated all around are white lilies, a reminder of the purity of the Holy Mother.