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Pope Francis calls for ‘unity and reconciliation’ in video message to Ireland

Pope Francis has released a video message to the people of Ireland ahead of the opening of the World Meeting of Families on Wednesday evening. In his message, the Pope extended his warmest greetings to the Irish people and shared his hope that the meeting, ongoing between 21-26 August, will be “a source of renewed encouragement,” to Irish families.

The Pope’s Message:

“Dear Friends,

“As I prepare to visit Ireland in a few days’ time for the World Meeting of Families, I send a warm word of greeting to all the Irish people. I am excited at the thought of returning to Ireland!

“As you know, the World Meeting is a celebration of the beauty of God’s plan for the family. It is also an occasion for families from all over the world to meet and support one another in living out their special vocation. Families today face many challenges in their efforts to embody faithful love, to bring up children with sound values and to be a leaven of goodness, love and mutual concern in the larger community. You know all this.

“I hope that this festival will be a source of renewed encouragement to families everywhere, especially those families that will be present in Dublin. May it remind us all of the essential place of the family in the life of society and in the building of a better future for today’s young people. Young people are the future! It is very important to prepare them for the future, preparing them today, in the present, but also rooted in the past: young people and grandparents. This is very important.

“Although the specific reason for my Visit to Ireland is the World Meeting of Families, I would like to include all the members of the Irish family. In a particular way, I pray that it may further the growth of unity and reconciliation among all Christ’s followers, as a sign of that lasting peace which is God’s dream for our whole human family.

“I know that many people are working hard to prepare for my Visit, and I thank all of them from my heart. I ask everyone to pray that this great festival will be a moment of joy and serenity, a caress of Jesus’ tender love for all families, and indeed, for all God’s children. I assure you of my closeness in prayer, and I would ask you to pray for me. From my heart, I send you my blessing.

“May God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you all!”

Pope Francis’s message comes ahead of a World Meeting of Families beset with difficulties in the wake of a spate of ongoing scandals related to sexual abuse in the Church. Two notable individuals due to attend the WMOF have since withdrawn from the event. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was due to host a panel discussion entitled ‘Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults’, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington has also withdrawn.

Cardinal O’Malley withdrew in order to investigate allegations of abuse at St John’s Seminary in the diocese of Boston, whilst Cardinal Wuerl declined to attend the meeting after public calls were made for his resignation. A Grand-jury report into sexual abuse in Pennsylvania accused Wuerl of covering up allegations of abuse during his time as Bishop of Pittsburgh. Both men are also facing questions over how much they knew about former Cardinal McCarrick’s activities. Cardinal McCarrick was forced to step down in June after allegations that he had sexually abused an altar boy came to public attention.