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Vatican City, Mar 19, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).- At the end of December, Pope Francis announced that on March 19, the Catholic Church would begin a special year dedicated to deepening pastoral outreach to families, based on his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Here’s a CNA Explainer on everything you need to know about what is being called the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family”:

When is this year being celebrated?

The Amoris Laetitia Family Year begins on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, because that is the day that Pope Francis signed his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia. The letter, which was on the theme of love in the family, was released about three weeks later.

The year 2021 marks the fifth anniversary of Amoris laetitia’s publication.

Though it is being called a “year,” the Amoris laetitia celebration will actually last around 15 months, ending on June 26, 2022, with the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

What is the year about?

Pope Francis has said “it will be a year of reflection on Amoris laetitia and it will be an opportunity to focus more closely on the contents of the document.”

Amoris laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) was written following two Synods of Bishops dedicated to the family. One of the longest documents in papal history, it consists of an introduction and nine chapters, reflecting on challenges to marriage and family life.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, is coordinating the Vatican’s initiatives for the special year.

Farrell said that the year had been organized because there are many couples and families around the world in crisis, experiencing poverty, or feeling alone, and they “need pastoral care, dedication.”

“Many families need to be helped to discover in the sufferings of life the place of Christ’s presence and of his merciful love,” he said. “This year, therefore, is an opportunity to reach out to families, to not make them feel alone in the face of difficulties, to walk with them, to listen to them and to undertake pastoral initiatives that help them to cultivate their daily love.”

I’m confused, I thought this was the Year of St. Joseph?

Yes, it is also the Year of St. Joseph, which began on Dec. 8, 2020, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and will end on Dec. 8, 2021.

In a press conference about the Amoris Laetitia Year, Farrell said “it was providential that the Holy Father dedicated this year to St. Joseph, husband and father, who was so loved that he was chosen by God to care for the Holy Family.”

“The pandemic has had very painful consequences for millions of people. But the family itself, despite being hit hard in many respects, once again showed its face as ‘keeper of life,’ as was St. Joseph. The family remains forever ‘guardian’ of our most authentic and original relationships, those that are born in love and make us mature as people,” he said.

Is anything special happening for this year of the family?

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is coordinating many different initiatives for the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, starting with a webinar on March 19 dedicated to pastoral and theological reflections on the family.

The opening of the webinar will also include a video message from Pope Francis.

The dicastery announced that it will also organize other “spiritual, pastoral, and cultural initiatives,” including a video project with Pope Francis on each of the chapters of Amoris laetitia.

“Pope Francis intends to address all ecclesial communities throughout the world, exhorting each person to be a witness of family love,” the dicastery said in December.

The Vatican office will share resources with dioceses, parishes, and other Church groups and family associations on themes related to marriage and family life, such as family spirituality, marriage preparation, and holiness for married couples.

It also plans to hold international academic symposiums to examine different aspects of Amoris laetitia in depth.

Where can I find out more?

The dicastery has created a webpage for the year at www.amorislaetitia.va, where more information about events and resources can be found.

You can also read Catholic News Agency for all the latest updates.