By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What a Week!!!

I've been in Philadelphia since last Monday for the World Meeting of Families. This event happens every three to four years and draws families from around the world. Registration for this one was about 25,000 people - very enthusiastic and joyful people! It was the joy of being together with fellow Catholics to thank God for the gift of family, to celebrate it, and to commit to be heralds of the wondrous and beautiful plan of God for the family.

The joy was given especially intense expression with the arrival of Pope Francis. His participation in this World Meeting was the principal reason for his visit to the United States. Yet, as you know, some extraordinary events preceded it. I followed it on TV as much as possible, and was really moved by the warm and enthusiastic reception he was given. Especially touching were his moments with children, the sick and the prisoners.

Yet it was only when we found ourselves in his presence that we experienced the power of his person. Even when I had no access to a TV monitor to follow his progress, I could tell where he was just by the enormous cheers as he drew near.

Many ask the reason for this powerful reaction to Pope Francis. Certainly his personality touches hearts. He personifies tenderness, and thus makes tangible the gentle mercy of God. Yet a passage from the Acts of the Apostles leads us to deeper appreciation. Consider the account at Acts 5:12-17. There we read of people bringing the sick to the Apostles for healing, and hoping in particular that "the shadow of Peter" might fall on them and they be cured. The Pope is the Successor of St Peter. When we draw near to him we are experiencing "the shadow of Peter" falling across us. The many TV images we saw are clear proof that the hearts of many were healed through this encounter.

And more - many more - will be healed if we commit to reach out to troubled families with the beauty and truth of the Gospel. This will be the heart of the discussions about to take place at the upcoming Synod on the Family, for which I leave this week in order to take part. Please keep in prayer me and the other approximately 300 Bishops who will gather in Rome for this event.

As Pope Francis reminded us Saturday evening, when God became one of us in Jesus Christ, he entered a family. Jesus continues to dwell in the hearts of families who call upon him. May we all rediscover - and live - the gift of family life as intended by God. This will renew our families and thus our society as well.