In his greeting to English-speaking pilgrims, Pope Francis made special mention of a group of Irish pilgrims in attendance for the presentation of the official World Meeting of Families icon, telling them “I intend to travel to Dublin from August 25-26.”
He then thanked authorities and all those working to prepare for the trip. The official program for the papal visit has yet to be released, however, Francis did not mention any other cities in his announcement and is expected to stay in Dublin for a short visit primarily focused on events related to the family gathering.
The theme for this year’s World Meeting of Families (WMOF), which will take place Aug. 21-26, is “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” The topic was chosen by Pope Francis and is based on his 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris Laetitia.
During the March 21 general audience, two families of Irish heritage – the Tobin family and the Bushell family – presented the Pope with the WMOF icon, titled the “Icon of the Holy Family.”
The Tobin family is from Co Derry and consists of mom and dad Brenda and Bryan, as well as their grandmother Maureen and their two children, 20-year-old daughter Emma, and 13-year-old daughter Cathel.
The Bushell family, who currently live in Rome, is originally from Ireland and is comprised of mom and dad Mary and Michael, and their two young daughters, Olivia, 7, and Molly, 5.
According to a news release on the event, the icon is intended to serve as an invitation to prayer. It is shaped like a cabinet with two doors that open to reveal the image inside, and is made of traditional seasoned wood.
Specialist icon company the Joinery Group crafted the wooden cabinet, which was then covered in several layers of a gesso primer before being painted with the ancient ‘tempera’ technique, in which the colored pigments are bound together with egg yolk and water.
Commissioned especially for the 2018 WMOF, the icon was written by Romanian iconographer Mihai Cucu and depicts three scenes: the Holy Family eating together at a table, the Gospel episode of the wedding feast at Cana and Jesus raising Jarious’ daughter from the dead, which is recounted in the Gospel of Mark.
The icon was anointed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin at an Aug. 21, 2017, Mass marking the one-year countdown to the WMOF.
The WMOF began as the result of a request by St. John Paul II in 1994 for an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration for families. The first took place in Rome in 1994. It is held every three years.
It was most recently hosted in Philadelphia by Archbishop Charles Chaput. The 2015 event had approximately 20,000 attendees from 100 different countries, including Pope Francis.
As far as this year’s celebrations, a “national opening” will take place in each of the 26 dioceses in Ireland Aug. 21, which will be followed by an Aug. 22-24 “pastoral congress” in Dublin that will include workshops, talks and discussion dedicated to the official theme. There will also be activities geared toward young people and children.
On Sat. Aug. 25, a “festival of families” will take place, consisting of a concert and personal testimonies given by families representing each of the five continents. The event will close with an Aug. 26 Mass, which all participants are invited to attend.