“Family, work and holidays are three fundamental, constitutive dimensions of human life, of the good life of man, for the full development of the human person and of society as a whole”. Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, thus commented on the theme of the seventh World Meeting of Families, scheduled to take place in Milan from May 30 to June 3rd. The interview is the first of a series of contributions, fruit of SIR’s cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Family, in preparation for the world meeting.
Your Eminence, the theme chosen for the World Meeting in Milan is “Family, work and holidays”. Could you tell us more about this theme and of how these three elements are inter-related?
“The family, work and holidays aren’t juxtaposed. In fact, they represent the same theme. The interaction of these three realms exemplifies their role as three fundamental, constitutive dimensions of human life, of the good life of mankind, and of the full development of the human person and of society as a whole. They are linked to one another from the very first chapter of Genesis, from the beginning of the history of Salvation, from Creation. God is the Author of marriage and of the family. He is the Creator of work. He tells mankind: ‘have dominion on the earth, govern it, and subdue it.’ God is the Supreme author of holidays: He blessed the seventh day as a Day of Rest, a time that is dedicated to relax but that also acknowledges the beauty of the work of the Creation, the beauty of the objectives that are being pursued, and of the projects that are being accomplished. Rest fulfils meaning and joie de vivre”.
Can these three aspects be harmonised?
“Indeed. This is a fact that should be acknowledged especially by the public opinion, by policymakers and by the economy. We must create work at family scale, and not at individual scale, as it is currently conceived. It is necessary to reconcile the needs of work with the needs of the family, to reconcile professional and household work, motherhood and employment. It is equally urgent to recover the meaning and the value of holidays: a time of bestowal, of leisure, of contemplation, of human relations, of friendships, of affection, a time for the family, for the community, and notably, holidays are a time for prayer, thus a time dedicated to our relationship with God, and also with nature, with artistic creation and with all that has value and that is not the object of instrumental manipulation”.
Do you agree that especially in the West there seems to be a certain tiredness, a kind of resignation regarding the possibility of such a harmonization?
“Undoubtedly, Europe is experiencing a serious crisis, which is reason for concern for the Church and the families, which has become also a major worry of policymakers. The ongoing crisis of the family means a crisis in marriages, marked by steadily decreasing figures, to the benefit of cohabitations. Divorces are on the rise, while more and more people decide to remain single. An ‘individual-oriented’ civilization is being promoted whereby the youth in particular is deceived into considering it an expression of greater freedom, while in fact, it is nothing more than solitude and boredom. Plummeting birth rates, with an average of one child per woman, do not guarantee generational replacement. This will lead to population aging and to economic and social crises owing to the want of resources to support multitudes of elderly people. These crises will eventually develop into cultural crises and to the identity crises of entire peoples. There is also a crisis in education: children need their parents, who are critical to their psychological and human balance, and to the transmission of fundamental values. The fact that children are left without fathers or mothers owing to divorce or to professional reasons unquestionably affects the formation of individuals and of future citizens”.
From your ‘privileged’ observatory, at what point are the preparations for the seventh World Meeting of Families?
“The volume containing the catechesis in preparation for the event was translated into 11 languages, including Arabic. And there are many online contacts. This means that this material is being used across world Churches and that many people are yearning to exchange their ideas. The so-called ‘Family Week’ was held – and is still ongoing - in world countries, in some cases a three-day meeting, in others congresses. Incoming registrations for the event include official delegations from world countries, more than one hundred, consisting of a bishop, a priest and a couple of spouses with their children. With the support of sponsors the Pontifical Council for the Family is engaged in the involvement of families from Countries in difficult situations. Thanks to these contributions we expect representatives from Congo, Chad, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Peru, Cuba and Albania, and others might join them soon”.
(02 April 2012)