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Summary of the 18th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family

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Rome April 2008

A report by Mrs. C. Wiley and Mr. A. Ing on the plenary session of the above council held at the Vatican in April 2008 to prepare for the Sixth World Meeting of Families which will take place in Mexico in January 2009.

It gives us great pleasure to be able to share with you our experience as delegates at the 18th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which was held in the Vatican, Rome, during April this year. The assembly was the last meeting in preparation for the 6th World Meeting of Families to be held in Mexico in January 2009.

The theme of the three day assembly was ‘Grandparents, Their Witness and Presence in the Family’. This theme, the first of its kind, had been chosen specifically so that the Pontifical Council could reflect upon the increasingly important role that grandparents were playing in family life, and in the life of the Church.

Delegates gathered from around the world to share experiences, to reflect upon the challenges that families face, and to celebrate and give thanks for the faithfulness and dedication of our grandparents everywhere.

The Pontifical Council, under the leadership of the late Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, had planned that the assembly should be marked by prayerful reflection, and so each working day began with the celebration of Mass in St Peter’s Basilica at the altar of ‘The Chair’, which reminded the delegates that their deliberations were to take place within the very mind and heart of the Church, and in which Grandparents hold such a special place.

In a very full programme we were able to consider scriptural images of figures from the Bible that have inspired a sense of wisdom, nurturing and faithfulness. We recognized that in our Grandparents we had access to a collective wisdom, ‘the ferryman’ that linked our past to our future. It was to them that we could address our request ‘Teach us to pray’ and to learn from their experience of life and its challenges by listening to their stories, memories and sharing with them our hopes and fears. The wisdom of the simple enriches us.

We heard of the pivotal role that Grandparents played in the emotional development of children, and the meeting recognized that Grandparents were in a unique position to be able to offer advice and to be approachable, sometimes more than parents, in that they did not always have to have a disciplinary role and could be less strict, more tolerant and good listeners. They were simple and effective catechists in their guiding of youth, reassuring children where there was conflict.

We considered the role of the elderly in the Church and in Society, and the part that the Mass Media plays in its portrayal of families today, which is often hostile.

Perhaps most touching were the moving personal testimonies and reflections given by grandparents themselves. We heard from experiences in the USA, from Australia, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the Philippines and from Chile. Although these societies were very different, it was remarkable how the same concerns and joys were experienced by grandparents and how much desire emerged for further support, encouragement and help.

Over and over again we heard beautiful tributes to grandparents who were referred to by the Cardinals and Bishops present as  ‘The treasure of the Church…The Blessing to the world… The beauty of the elderly.’ And importantly that ‘even in their frailty and illness they draw from us the highest and noblest feelings of honour and respect.’

Many calls were made for Episcopal conferences around the world to set aside days of prayer and thanksgiving to celebrate Grandparents, and without doubt many Cardinals left the assembly with a determination to explore ways to further this desire. The call to ‘Build up the Kingdom by your wisdom and presence in our families’ was made very clearly by the whole Church.



Written by Catholic Grandparents Association

September 16, 2009 at 3:39 pm

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