Next year’s World Meeting of Families - which Pope Francis has confirmed he will attend - will be a “tremendous catechetical moment” for the Church, affirmed one U.S. archbishop. “This will be an opportunity, I think, for a powerful catechesis on the dignity of marriage, the uniqueness of marriage, the importance of family for the Church and society,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City told CNA. “So I think it will be a tremendous catechetical moment, a tremendous opportunity for evangelization as well.”

The World Meeting of Families occurs eveiy three years and is an international gathering to both celebrate and re-energize the family’s role in society and discuss the challenges facing today’s families. It was begun by Pope John Paul II in 1994. The next gathering is scheduled for September 22 -27, 2015 in Philadelphia, and Pope Francis confirmed last week that he is planning to attend. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said the papal visit would be the “icing on the cake” for the event. The weekend papal activities are expected to attract 1 million attendees from across the globe.

Archbishop Coakley expressed his excitement for the Pope’s visit. “I am very much looking forward to the event,” he said. “It’ll be wonderful to welcome the Holy Father to the United States and to provide that kind of warm welcome that I know the Church in the United States will offer him. I think there will be a great deal of enthusiasm among my brother bishops.”

“I think he’ll have a sense of the vitality of the Church in the United States,” Archbishop Coakley said of what Pope Francis can expect during his visit. “It will be his first pastoral visit to the U.S. So I think that will be a wonderful opportunity around the importance of family to really highlight the value that we in the United States, especially Catholics in the United States, have placed upon the strength of family life.”

“We all know that there are challenges that family life is experiencing. But I think this will be an opportunity to lift up the beauty and the strength of family life as well.” He said that despite the challenges of the 21st century, “I think this will really be an opportunity to really celebrate marriage and family life.” “It will be a chance to get our message out clearly, and in a very high-profile sort of setting, the gathering of bishops, priests, religious women and men, faithful parents, family members from around the world,” the archbishop said.

The World Meeting of Families will occur just weeks before the Ordinary Synod on the Family next October in Rome, providing back-to-back international conferences focused on the family. Archbishop Coakley looked ahead to both events as opportunities to “celebrate” the family life of the United States. He said the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has not organized a pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families yet “simply because we haven’t had that much information available to us.” However, he expressed his hope that one will be arranged in coming months.

The theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families will be “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” The roots of the theme were explained by Archbishop Chaput in a welcome letter for the event. The Philadelphia archbishop pointed to the words of Church Father St. Irenaeus: “the glory of God is man fully alive.”

“The glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves—and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family,” Archbishop Chaput wrote, tying the theme to Pope Francis’ pontificate. “His Holiness, Pope Francis also inspired the theme. He embodies the message of mercy, joy and love at the heart of the Gospel.”

—CNA/EWTN News, November 24, 2014

The Holy Family Iconic Painting for the World Meeting of Families (above) is by Neilson Carlin.