Fr. Awi Mello: Young people are the strength of the Church
Exaudi News interview with the Secretary of the Dicastery in the run-up to the diocesan WYD on 21 November
“Young people are ‘God’s now’ and the strength of the Church,” says Father Alexandre Awi Mello, Secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, when talking about the preparation of the next World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon in 2023, which “advances with much enthusiasm.”
Exaudi News, with Larissa Lopez, talked with Father Alexandre Awi Mello of the Schönstatt Fathers, about his work in the Vatican, the Year of the Amoris Laetitia Family, and the preparations for the 2022 World Day of Families (WDF) and Lisbon’s WYD in 2023.
Exaudi: Tell us how you met Pope Francis.
Father Alexandre: We met during the 5th Conference of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), in the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida in May of 2007. He was elected, by the Bishops present, as President of the Drafting Commission of the Final Document of that important event of the Latin American Church. Another priest and I were assigned to help that Commission with secretariat services. So we worked together during the days of the Conference.
Exaudi: Explain your work as Secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life.
Father Alexandre: My function is the executive coordination of the Dicastery’s different areas of work, which is fruit of the fusion of two Pontifical Councils: that of the Laity and of Families. We are at the service of the Pope in different pastoral areas, as our statute states: “the promotion of life and of the apostolate of the lay faithful, in the pastoral care of young people, of the family and its mission, according to God’s plan and in the protection and support of human life” (Art. 1). To get to know our mission, see The Statute.
Exaudi: For those that don’t know the Dicastery and its functions, can you explain its relevance and work in the Vatican?
Father Alexandre: Every Dicastery of the Roman Curia has the mission to collaborate with the Holy Father in the care of the different groups of the faithful and the various areas of the Church’s action. Thus, there is a Dicastery to address subjects related to Bishops, another for the Clergy, another for Catholic Education, another for Evangelization, etc. Our Dicastery is concerned with a great part of the Church, given that the laity — and in particular families — are the great majority of the People of God. We also support the laity’s associative right at the international level, carrying out the function of supporting the faithful’s international associations. A detailed description of our work can be found in a recent reportage of Vatican News: The Mission: Awaken the Strength of the Laity – Vatican News.
Exaudi: We are immersed in the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, which the Holy Father described as “a special year to grow in family love.” Let’s talk about some of these spiritual, pastoral and cultural proposals that are being carried out in the world and that have reached the Dicastery’s ears.
Father Alexandre: Five years after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, many Episcopal Conferences, dioceses, and parishes took seriously the Pope’s invitation to revive the fire that Letter of Love to Families, fruit of two Synods and an intense pastoral endeavor of listening and reflection. For the concrete work of Family Pastoral Care, many materials are being revised and different initiatives are giving new life to the Exhortation’s message. The Dicastery formulated 12 lines of action to “walk with families” in this year: On the Way with Families. This year’s activities are on our Website Amoris Laetita. Found here also are different initiatives of the Episcopal Conferences, of International Movements, and of the academic world: Of the World. Although we can’t follow them all, we have information on various interesting and creative initiatives on the part of many dioceses and Ecclesiastical Movements in different parts of the world.
Exaudi: Among the objectives of this Amoris Laetitia Family Year is that of “spreading the content of the Apostolic Exhortation. What would you say to people to encourage them to read it and transmit it?
Father Alexandre: At a time of so many challenges for the family, Amoris Laetitia is the fruit of a long process of synodal reflection: families, Bishops, and Pope walking together, guided by the Holy Spirit, to give appropriate answers to the needs of the families of our time. To those for whom it’s hard to read the whole text, I suggest that at least they watch the videos the Pope prepared, with families from around the world, explaining the central themes of the Exhortation. Every video is accompanied by an aid with brief reflections and questions to be worked on in the family, in the parish, or individually: 10 Amoris Laetitia Videos. It’s worthwhile to discover the beauty of that Exhortation, strengthening love and the service to families. I was very struck by the fact that Costa Rica’s Family Pastoral Care Commission has initiated a radio program to reflect further on these aids: they are useful tools for each context and reality and they are also valuable for future further reflection, after the closing of this special Year.
Exaudi: Tell us how the preparations are coming along for the next World Meeting of Families in 2022 and those of Lisbon’s 2023 WYD.
What hopes and expectations are placed in these two events?
Father Alexandre: The next World Meeting of Families will have an unprecedented mode: few delegates in Rome and, parallelly, thousands of families in dioceses worldwide celebrating together with their Bishop. This was Pope Francis’ invitation: Pope Francis Presents the 10th World Meeting of Families. Hence, it will be a truly global meeting. The expectation is that many families will take part at the local level and invite especially families alienated from the Church to that great celebration, which intends to give witness of “Family Love: a Vocation and Path to Holiness,” which is the theme of the Meeting, whose official Website was launched a short time ago: World Meeting of Families 2022 Rome.
The preparation for the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon is also advancing with much enthusiasm. It’s all being organized so that it is predominantly a face-to-face event, as in the previous versions. The expectation is that it will mark the re-start of normal activities, after the long-time of the pandemic. Young people are “God’s now” and the strength of the Church. That is why, a short time ago the Dicastery also launched some important guidelines for the annual celebration of WYD at the diocesan level, which, beginning this year, will be held on the Solemnity of Christ the King: Download
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