"Everything is ready for Dublin to become the capital of families". Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who has been at the head of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life for almost two years, tells in this interview for Word the latest preparations for the World Meeting of Families, to be held in Dublin from August 21-26 with the participation of Pope Francis.
Text - Giovanni Tridente, Rome
He also offers us a calm and reasoned reflection on various aspects of the Exhortation Amoris laetitia, on how families have an impact on today's world and on what contribution can and should come from the "feminine gaze" in the Church. Of Irish origin, she studied at the University of Salamanca, in Spain, and at the Gregorian and the Angelicum in Rome, obtaining a Master's degree in Business Administration at the University of Notre Dame (United States).
In 1966 he joined the Legionaries of Christ and carried out his pastoral activity in Mexico and Washington, in whose diocese he was incardinated in 1984. In 2001 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington, and in 2007, before being called to the Vatican, he was promoted to bishop of Dallas. Pope Francis created him a cardinal on November 19, 2016, during the closing of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
Your Eminence, the big World Meeting of Families in Dublin is already two months away. How are the preparations progressing?
-The World Meeting is always an occasion of grace. A time to proclaim and celebrate the joy of the Gospel of the family. Work is proceeding at great speed in this final stretch. Registrations are still open and many people continue to register. Official delegations from many countries of the five continents have confirmed their participation and are preparing for the Meeting by receiving and imparting the preparatory catecheses that were prepared for the occasion. Everything is practically ready for Dublin to become the capital of families.
With the August meeting, these meetings are celebrating their "silver jubilee", 24 years after the first convocation desired in 1994 by St. John Paul II. In your opinion, what has changed since then?
-It is evident that the situation of families has changed in recent years. For this reason Pope Francis wanted two synods to be held, preceded by a 360-degree consultation on the family. Although there are many situations in contemporary culture that do not favor the stability and solidity of families, the original vocation of people to love and the desire for family remain unchanged. This is precisely why Pope Francis' post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which so strongly emphasizes the via caritatis and the pulchrum, is having such a resonance and helping the Church to renew her pastoral commitment to all families, without excluding any.
Thinking precisely about Amoris laetitia, what, in your opinion, is the true secret of a Gospel of the family that is joy for the world?
-The key is to proclaim the joy of love that loves the other for what he or she is and seeks his or her true good (cf. AL 127). Amoris Laetitia sees authentic human and Christian love as the only force capable of saving marriage and the family. Hence the Pope places love at the center of the family (cf. AL 67), giving it great importance throughout the Apostolic Exhortation, especially in chapters IV and V, where he describes some characteristics of true love and applies them to family life on the basis of St. Paul's hymn to charity from 1 Cor 13:4-7 (cf. AL 90-119).
As we know, many libertarian initiatives obscure the "prophecy" embedded in the first cell of society. How to overcome these serious world crises, and what attitude to adopt towards the world?
-Christians must be open to listen to the questions that our contemporaries ask about fundamental questions of existence. Our attitude cannot be that of those who condemn "a priori" any new proposal or those who, in seeking solutions, make mistakes. The Pope invites us to be attentive to the action of the Holy Spirit who, in his own neologism, "precedes us". We must be attentive to offer doctrine, but above all the witness of charity and the joy of Christian family life. Thus, for example, it cannot be denied that people always seek love, even if, given our fallen nature, we can be mistaken in the object and in the way we love. The Pope reminds us that conjugal love is authentic when it is an oblative and spiritual love, which includes at the same time affection, tenderness, intimacy, passion, erotic desire, pleasure that is given and received (cf. AL 120; 123), openness to procreation and to the education of children (cf. AL 80-85).
On the other hand, in social dialogue it is important to know how to offer valid reasons from the point of view of the common interest and not always repeat the "should be". It is necessary to show the reasons that advise in view of the common good, of the general interest, and to support families so that they can carry out their important social task, distinguishing what belongs to the private sphere of affection from what also has an irreducible social function. This is especially the task of the laity, of the families themselves, united with others who, while not sharing their faith, share the same concern for the well-being of society and of families.
Continuing with Amoris laetitia, the fruit of two important synodal discussions, it is well known that in some circles it has not been well digested. From your point of view, what are the most relevant points of this document, which are worth assimilating well?
-Amoris Laetitia is a document of great pastoral richness. Pope Francis offers us a pedagogy, understanding that the couple's relationship is a journey that lasts a lifetime (cfr. AL 325) and that, therefore, it is a journey that knows both the beauty and joy of being loved and of loving as well as the defects and sins, the difficulties and sufferings. It must therefore be considered with realism and confidence, as a progressive growth and development that is carried out together, step by step, with practical, patient and persevering exercise (cfr. AL 266-267). The Pope uses a very eloquent expression to refer to this reality, he says that "love is a craft" (AL 221). This is also true for the education of children (cf. AL 16; 271; 273).
This whole journey needs the accompaniment of the Church. I am referring to the Christian community, not only to the clergy. I believe that this accompaniment is one of the most original things in the pastoral proposal of Amoris Laetitia, and something that we must strive to understand better and to find adequate ways to carry out.
Within the local Churches many initiatives have been born in the field of accompaniment of families in the various stages, from the wedding to the arrival of children and up to the age of maturity, as requested by the Exhortation. What role has the Dicastery played in this field, and what is it doing to continue to promote new initiatives?
-The Dicastery's mission is to collaborate with the Holy Father's ministry of communion. Therefore, we are fundamentally at the service of the particular Churches, listening to their experiences and concerns. In this sense, we are a great observatory that gathers valuable experiences and tries to circulate them so that the whole Church can benefit from them. We also encourage the reflection of university family institutes and take advantage of their work. Another field to which the Dicastery is especially dedicated is the reception of Amoris Laetitia and its catechetical translation.
We are also interested in the development of an adequate premarital pastoral that, in a catechumenal way, prepares our young people to live spousal love. This is why we are working on a platform that brings together a community of people from all over the world who work to support parents in the emotional formation of their children, through courses, didactic materials and pedagogical resources of various kinds.
Pope Francis speaks in various tones of a Church going out. Can we say that there are also "families going out", according to this logic of the Pope, and what would that mean?
-The Pope's invitation to be a "Church going forth" is an invitation addressed to each and every one of the baptized, since by reason of baptism all the faithful are called to the apostolate, to extend the Kingdom of God according to the ecclesial position that each one occupies in accordance with his or her specific vocation and personal circumstances. A "Church going forth" is thus a Church in a permanent state of mission. Therefore, families are also called not to be closed in on themselves. This is inherent in the Christian vocation. They must remain open to the needs of others, especially to those persons and families who find themselves in difficulty for various reasons, both existential and material. Families that contribute in solidarity to the building up of the common good.
Also as active and co-responsible subjects of the mission, Christian families are called to participate according to their possibilities in the different pastoral services they can perform, from the mission "ad gentes", to the catechesis of Christian initiation, the accompaniment of young couples, family consultancies, etc.
With regard to life, what initiatives is the Dicastery working on, and how does it collaborate with the Pontifical Academy of the same name?
-Our Dicastery has the task of promoting respect for the dignity of the life of every human person and of all human life, from conception to natural death, with a transcendent perspective that looks at the human person integrally destined for eternal communion with God. In this sense, our greatest commitment is to promote an integral and transversal pastoral care of human life, which is not reduced only to the necessary pro-life commitment and its legislative, political and cultural implications.
It is necessary to develop a holistic perspective of pastoral care, with its formative (catechesis, formation of consciences, bioethics), celebratory (days of prayer, rosaries, vigils, feasts of life) and service (centers for the support of life, accompaniment of women with unplanned pregnancies, accompaniment of post-abortion trauma syndrome, accompaniment of bereavement, etc.), and taking care of the different ages of man. Hence, we are concerned with the care of the elderly, the integral promotion of fertility, not only in terms of openness to procreation, but also in terms of spiritual, moral and solidary fertility in the care of the less favored, in adoption, in the custody of children, etc.
By the will of Pope Francis, there are two women at your side as Undersecretaries of the Dicastery. How important is the role of women in the Church and in society?
-We are becoming more and more aware of how much energy we lose when the contribution of the feminine genius is not recognized and promoted, on a par with the contribution of men. Jesus Christ, our Lord, was in his historical existence one of the greatest promoters of the dignity and equality of women; then, for historical reasons whose analysis exceeds the scope of this conversation, perhaps the Church has lacked the "parresia" to draw all the consequences of Christian Revelation about women. However, at this time there is much reflection on this.
I am pleased to recall here, for example, the interesting reflection that the Pontifical Commission for Latin America carried out in its last Plenary Assembly. It is a reflection that recognizes the richness, complementarity and reciprocity of sexual difference, thus going beyond certain feminisms and fully vindicating the equality and difference of men and women. Our office, besides counting on the contribution of these two new Undersecretaries, also counts on several officers, married and single, consecrated and lay, who day by day contribute their richness and feminine charism to our mission, and we also count on a department that is in charge of promoting women, so that they can contribute their feminine approach to the different situations and choices that must be made to encourage the mission and build communion at the different levels of decision making.
The feminine gaze is necessary today more than ever to develop a Church with maternal attitudes, as the Pope continually invites us to do: the revolution of tenderness, the bowels of mercy and the pastoral approach of care and accompaniment, which takes charge of the concrete situations of people.