POPE FRANCIS AT FAMILY FESTIVAL PRAYER VIGIL: FAMILIES ARE FACTORIES OF HOPE
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis participated in a great gathering of families on Saturday evening in Philadelphia, host city of the World Meeting of Families, for a vigil of prayer and a celebration of the family. The following is Chris Altieri’s report for Vatican Radio from Philadelphia:
Hosted by actor Mark Wahlberg, and with a rundown that numbered several A-list personalities and legendary performers including vocalist Aretha Franklin and tenor Andrea Bocelli, the event was punctuated by the testimony of six couples representing various ages and conditions of family life:
An engaged couple from Australia, Camillus O’Kane and Kelly Walsh, whose faith gives them inspiration, courage and direction as they prepare for married life in a cultural context that is not always friendly to the idea of lifelong, selfless commitment.
A Ukrainian immigrant woman and her two sons, one of whom has special needs, and who have struggled to make a life for themselves here in the United States, and whose faith sustains them in their trials.
Nidal Mousa and Nida Joseph, a Christian family from Jordan with their two daughters, Faten and Dema, who minister to people in serious poverty, religious persecution, immigration, and war.
Ifeyinwa and Chidi, a couple from Nigeria with four children, whao are about to celebrate 24 years of marriage and who shared their experience of injury, healing and forgiveness.
Leona and Rudy Gonzales from New York, grandparents and great-grandparents of 12, who offered their witness to the indispensable role of extended family in family life.
Mario and Rosa from Argentina: married 60 years, they spoke of the need for families to rest in God’s providence.
In his own remarks to the participants, Pope Francis put aside his prepared speech, and spoke of the family as God’s great gift, and the most beautiful part of God’s creation. The family is the channel and reflection of God’s own beauty, truth, and goodness. “The family,” founded on the marital love of a man and a woman that alone can generate and nurture life according to God’s own plan, “is like a factory of hope.”
Though there are no perfect families, and though in every family there are tensions, difficulties, conflicts, challenges, there is in the family also the abiding love by which all these can be overcome. “Families have their difficulties, in families we quarrel,” he said. “Sometimes plates can fly and children bring headaches and I won’t speak about mothers-in-law! But in the family there is always light because the love of God, the Son of God opened also that door of love. But just as there are problems in families we must remember there is the light of the Resurrection.”
“Only love is able to overcome,” said Pope Francis, who went on to discuss also the intergenerational nature of the family, calling all present to remember and to care for children and elderly family members. “Children, younger and older are the future, the strength that moves us forward. Grandparents are the living memory of the family, they passed on the faith to us – to look after grandparents and children is the expression of love.”
The stakes are high – indeed they could be no higher. “A People that is not able to look after their children and grandparents is a people that has no future, because it doesn’t have strength or the memory to go forward.”
“God bless you and give you hope,” concluded Pope Francis. “God give you the strength to go forward: lets protect the family – and please pray for me.”
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What was it actually like to be at the Prayer Meeting for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia on Saturday night? Vatican Radio’s correspondent Seán Patrick Lovett was there and got a bird’s eye view of the Pope, the performers and the people in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He reports:
The noise is always the same. It starts as a “whoop” and ends as a “yell” – thousands of vocal chords vibrating in unison. And it always means the same thing: he’s arrived.
When Pope Francis arrived on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Saturday night for the Festival of Families, all I could think was: don’t his arms ever get tired? I mean, the Parkway is nearly ten kilometers long and, driving in the popemobile through the immense crowds lining the route since early afternoon, the Pope never stopped waving and blessing to left and right the entire way. My own arms were aching just watching him.
When the papal motorcade drew up beside the massive podium it was in a blaze of flashing police lights, screaming sirens, and roaring security vehicles. I counted 21 motor bikes and 25 bullet-proof behemoths that dwarfed the car they were there to protect. No stopping to drink a cup of maté here, no tossing soccer scarves at the Pope, or even getting closer than a hundred yards to him. Americans, who are used to this kind of thing, are saying they have never seen security like this. Neither have I. Over the past five days I have been searched by the Secret Service, frisked by the FBI, prodded by police, sniffed by bomb squad dogs, and passed through more metal detectors than they have at Heathrow.
But I was talking about Pope Francis and the Family Fest in Philadelphia.
How to describe it? I suppose it was something between a music concert, a variety show, a folk festival, and a multimedia presentation – with the occasional testimony by families thrown in to remind us why we were really there. It was a star-studded evening too: actor/producer, Mark Wahlberg, was master of ceremonies, and singing legend, Aretha Franklin, belted out her very own version of “Amazing Grace”.
Then Pope Francis spoke. Instead of following his prepared speech, he chatted to the gathering about “God’s overflowing love” that resulted in the creation of the world and how the culmination of that creative love is the family.
Thousands of families came from far and wide for the event and didn’t appear in the least deterred – either by the length of the program or by the chill autumn wind that swept down the Parkway. They continued to applaud right to the end. But then, they were making a night of it. For them, the most important event would be the closing Mass on Sunday morning and they weren’t moving. I wish I could say I was as brave