A year for the family

"Familles 2011" begins

The pensions reform, the state of social debate, secularization, the family, the respect for Sunday rest are among the themes address by the French bishops in Lourdes in the framework of the plenary meeting held in the Marian shrine on November 4 to 9. During the Assembly the cardinal archbishop of Paris was re-elected president of the bishops conference for a second three-year mandate. Also the two vice-presidents Msgr. Laurent Ulrich, archbishop of Lille and Msgr. Hippolyte Simon, archbishop of Clermont were reconfirmed to the same posts. Social debate and pension reform. France suffers because the Country “is blocked on the modality of social dialogue”, said cardinal André Vingt-Trois in the opening address of the plenary assembly of French Bishops in Lourdes. His Eminence explicitly referred to the pension reform opposed in hundreds of demonstrations staged across the Country. It’s a reform – the archbishop said – over which political leaders have been working for decades “without reaching convincing structural decisions”. Thus it is not a surprise that today the Country is facing “a standstill in social dialogue, already experienced when confronting important decisions at national level”. The recent debate on pension reform “raises issues that involve social equality and future projections. Many of our fellow citizens strive to understand that a relevant part of society is suffering from the precariousness of employment and income, while others enjoy the security of a profession along with social and economic benefits”. According to the archbishop the issue directly refers to the question of the future and to the solidarity between generations, putting aside the legitimate demands of those “who sacrificed themselves in their working places only to find themselves with no guarantees at the end of their lives” while failing to address the problem of “the young generations which have to grapple with their future”. “Thus it is not that surprising – remarks the archbishop – that these feelings of injustice, the restlessness for the future, and the youth’s anxiety are manifested as an expressions of collective tension, and often of violence too. But a democratic society presupposes a pact of trust between the different partners, and also between those who don’t have the same beliefs about the political solutions that must be implemented”. A year for the family. The Catholic Church of France opened the year of reflection and mobilization on the family with a thematic blog www.blogfamilles2011.fr and with a series of events in different cities that will culminate in 2011 with a conference in Paris on “2011 Families: a force of humanization, an art of living” and a national encounter of the families in Lourdes in October. In the press release, the organizers explain the reasons for the initiative: “The families today have become multifaceted. There is the classical family, the recomposed family, and the single-parent family. The adjectives, which cannot be avoided, show that the word family refers to diverse realities”. And they add: “because of all of these changes the bonds of the family have weakened”. Indeed, “the family appears to caracole all the surveys conducted in France and across Europe”. “But the family remains a very important value, also for the youth. This apparent contradiction between the family – the key of happiness – and the family as a crossroads of all fragilities is the motivation of the ‘Families 2011’ initiative”.The family in France. Acknowledging the changes occurring across society and analyzing them. Enhancing families’ contributions to the public realm. Spreading the topical relevance of Christian message for all families and drawing up proposals for a family policy and family pastoral care. These are the objectives of the Bishops’ Council for the Family set out with a series of events for the year 2011. The dossier that presents the initiative also delineates the framework of French and European families. France has a high fertility rate, compared to European mean figures (1.99), although mothers give birth at an ever older age – from 30 years. Another significant figure is that half of the children in France are born out of wedlock. The couples are opting for the ‘Civil unions’ formula, as compared to conventional marriage, when it comes to officializing their union. Finally, over 10 million minors live with both parents; 780 thousand children live with one of their parents and his/her new partner while 2.2 million children live in mono-parental families. 1.9 million live with the mother and 300 thousand with their father.

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