09 June 2021
Forum Amoris Laetitia

Amoris Laetitia: a way to renew pastoral family care

Summary of the first day of the Amoris Laetitia Forum
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The first day of the Forum "Where are we with Amoris Laetitia? Strategies for the pastoral application of Pope Francis' Exhortation" opened today with the first day of work. The aim of the forum was to launch a reflection on the present and the future of family pastoral work, in order to make it increasingly concrete and close to families. 

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the video message that the Holy Father addressed to the participants in the Forum. Pope Francis insisted on the need to involve the lay faithful, and in particular couples, more in pastoral work in order to build the ecclesial fabric together. 

Before the Pope's video, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery, opened the Forum, recalling some indications that the Pope has already given on previous occasions, in particular that of reading Amoris Laetitia together as a whole, and in an integral manner, from the first to the last chapter, without getting caught up in "cherry picking" points of action that seem possible or impossible. In addition, the Prefect recalled that the Holy Father, "from the beginning of his pontificate, never tires of urging the Church to a general renewal of pastoral care, which takes into account certain fundamental ideas: the Church’s missionary character; the greater involvement of the laity; the synodal style; popular and non-elitist character and the logic of welcoming and accompanying each individual person."

Speaking to the Forum specifically, the Cardinal expressed his hope to the participants that these days of work could be "a concrete sign of our commitment, as Church, to place the family at the centre and put ourselves at its service, to work for it and with it, to hope in its enormous potential, in the certainty that 'the Church is good for the family and the family is good for the Church' (AL 87)."

The Secretary of the Dicastery, Fr Alexandre Awi Mello first presented a detailed analysis of the dissemination of the Apostolic Exhortation around the world. Starting from the question of the title of the Forum, "Where are we with Amoris Laetitia?". Thanks to the information gathered over the last five years, through an ongoing dialogue with the Bishops' Conferences, he spoke about the initial reception of Amoris Laetitia in the world and its impact on family pastoral care. Secondly, he pointed out that in some countries, family pastoral care has been revised in the light of Amoris Laetitia, such as in the United States, Bolivia, Nigeria, Italy and Costa Rica. In other countries, however, an integral work has begun with other pastoral offices, such as those for youth, vocations or catechesis. Thirdly, he highlighted some new initiatives that have emerged as a result of the Apostolic Exhortation and the pastoral renewal that it has brought about. He did not fail to mention the many difficulties that have nevertheless been encountered in putting Amoris Laetitia into practice. Finally, the analysis concluded with feedback received from some countries on the needs felt in applying the Exhortation in the best possible way and the difficulties that have arisen in this recent period of pandemic. 

After a round of questions and answers from the participants and a short break, the work got into full swing with the first of the six sessions that constitute the Forum's programmatic lines. Dr Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary for Family and Life of the Dicastery, focused on the theme "The catechumenate at marriage". This is, in fact, one of the points that Pope Francis has repeatedly indicated to the local Churches as necessary, insisting on the desirability of a broad itinerary, inspired by the baptismal catechumenate, which would enable engaged couples to live the sacrament of marriage more consciously.

The Dicastery's proposal for this proper catechumenal itinerary, based on the wishes of the Holy Father, is preceded by a pre-catechumenal phase which coincides in practice with the longer period of "remote preparation" for marriage, which begins in childhood and continues into youth. The properly catechumenal phase is made up of three distinct stages: the proximate preparation, the immediate preparation and the accompaniment of the first years of married life. The core of the whole itinerary should be the rediscovery of faith, conversion and conversion and personal and couple discernment.

Dr Gambino pointed out several times the importance of the formation of "those who accompany and mentor couples, priests and, in general, pastoral workers must have a formation and a style of accompaniment suitable for the catechumenal path. It is not so much a question of transmitting notions or acquiring skills, but rather of guiding, helping and being close to the couples along a path to be followed together."

Finally, the first day ended with a testimony from Spain. Francisco Albalá and Toñi Caro presented the project "Juntos en camino +Q2" (“Together on the Road +Q2”), which came into being after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, envisaging a marriage preparation course that is of a much longer duration (two years), and which involves a deep accompaniment of the engaged couples in which they themselves are made the protagonists of the process. This project is summed up in the following three ideas: Accompaniment and Welcome; Discernment and Enjoyment; Integration and Innovation.

The first day then ended with a concluding dialogue held among the participants, during which the beauty of an international event of this kind was highlighted, which, although online, offers a concrete opportunity to meet and discuss the apostolic exhortation together in a frank and free manner. From the participants' chat, has emerged the need to create a space for dialogue among family pastoral workers . Participants expressed the desire to exchange - for mutual inspiration - the many good practices already in place and planned, for the pastoral implementation of Amoris Laetitia in this year dedicated to the Family.