ON JANUARY 2003 families from all over the world will gather here for one celebration—the Fourth World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families.

By order, His Eminence Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin informed bishops and pro-life groups world-wide of the activities of the four-day celebration. The Archdiocese of Manila will be hosting the Fourth World Meeting of Families from 25-26 January 2003 and the International Theological and Pastoral Congress from 23-24 January 2003.

“The theme for the Congress and Meeting is “The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millennium,” chosen by the Holy Father Himself. This is very timely since the role and mission of the different members of the family face increasing difficulties and confusion, on account of rapid social change and new pressures and threats. Indeed, the family is not just the object of the Church’s evangelization efforts but is also recognized as one of its vital agents. It is especially through the family that our civilization can truly embody the values and truths of the Gospel.”

The Pope has called the Third Millennium, the “Asian Millennium” – the millennium for the proclamation of the name and Gospel of Jesus in Asia. As Christians, we are called “to share with our Asian brothers and sisters what we treasure as the gift containing all gifts, namely, the Good News of Jesus Christ” (Ecclesia in Asia, 19).

History of the meeting

The Holy See issued the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and established the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1981.

In 1994, the First World Meeting of Families was held in Rome, the “inspired fruit of the Holy Spirit.” The World Meeting of Families is a gathering of families from all over the world once ever three years upon the invitation of the Pope to celebrate the God-given gift that is the family. It enables the families to come together, pray, dialogue, learn, share and deepen their understanding and appreciation of how the Christian family fulfills its role as a domestic church, the basic unit for evangelization. There are 5 main events in every WMF, namely: International Theological Pastoral Congress (ITPC), Sons and Daughters Congress, Eucharistic Celebrations for Families on Pilgrimage, Festive Meeting with Testimonies from families, and the Closing Mass.

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Next year, the Philippines will be hosting the event. Why was it chosen? Aside being the only Catholic country in Asia, it is noted in 1995, during the Mass marking the Quadricentennial Anniversary of the Archdiocese of Manila, Pope John Paul II called on the Philippines to continue to be the beacon of light of Asia – and to the whole world – of the faith that the Filipinos have received and preserved for more than four centuries. Families – Asian families, who have known Christ in their hearts through their legacy of traditions and cultures and who have embraced Him even more through their faith, naturally play an important role and have so much to share and to proclaim about how they live, know and love Jesus Christ. The Filipino families have this experience and are the bearers of this legacy of faith in this continent, so the Pope chose this country (home to 70 million Catholics) as the venue for the Fourth World Meeting of Families, the first to be held in Asia.

Program of activities

Ten thousand delegates, foreign and local, will be expecting two congresses in WMF. One is the International Theological and Pastoral Congress (ITPC), which is the main feature of such World Meetings. This involves a study and exposition of various topics related to the theme facilitated by experts and theologians and representative families from various countries.

The conference is expected to dwell extensively on the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia and other documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences as they relate to the theme, “The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millennium.”

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Key personalities from UST will be playing major roles in the International Theological Pastoral Congress, part of the Fourth World Meeting of Families. With the theme, “The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millenium,” the Congress will be held on January 22 – 24, 2003 at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P. , as one of the members of the Theological Advisory Council, will compose the final statement to be read on the final day of the Congress. He will also serve as a moderator of the panel discussion, “Christian Families Encounter families of Other Religions: Families as Bearers and Builders of Peace.”

College of Fine Arts and Design Dean Jaime delos Santos will chair the committee for physical arrangements. Meanwhile, associate professor Giovanna Fontanilla will coordinate the musical interlude. Fr. Fausto Gomez, O.P. Faculty of Sacred Theology dean, will participate in the panel discussion on “Science, Ethics, and the Value of Life.”

Simultaneous with the ITPC will be the Congress of Sons and Daughters. The participating children will be from six to 18 years old. A special method of catechesis will be developed to bring about truly participative and interactive sessions – involving songs, dances, mimes, and games – aimed at arousing these young minds the fervor to seek to know Jesus more and to have Him in their lives. More importantly, to bring this knowledge of Jesus and the Good News to other people.

The International Theological Pastoral Congress (ITPC) and the Sons and Daughters Congress that will be held at the Philippine International Convention Center from 22 to 24 January 2003 are only for registered delegates.

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There are however, other events that the general public can attend. The Eucharistic Celebrations for Families on Pilgrimage are for the language groupings of the delegates and will be held in 16 selected parishes in Metro Manila on the morning of 25 January 2003.

The public can attend Mass in these churches. The Festive Meeting with Testimonies from Families will be held in the 16 selected parish churches in Metro Manila on the same morning. This event is open to all and will be capped by a dazzling display of fireworks. On the morning of 26 January 2003, the Closing Mass of the Fourth World Meeting of Families will take place with some 1,000 cardinals, bishops and priests celebrating. This is open to the public. Both the Festive Meeting with Testimonies from Families (25 January 2003) and the Closing Mass (26 January 2003) will be held at the Quirino Grandstand of the Rizal Park in Luneta, Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

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