On 19 March 2021, the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, on the joy and beauty of familial love, Pope Francis will inaugurate the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which will conclude on 26 June 2022 at the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

In announcing the year, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life said the pandemic experience has highlighted the central role of the family as the domestic Church, and illustrated the importance of community ties between families.

‘Through the spiritual, pastoral, and cultural initiatives planned in the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” Pope Francis intends to address all ecclesial communities throughout the world, exhorting each person to be a witness of family love,’ the statement from the Dicastery said. The project is intended to support parishes, dioceses, universities and ecclesial associations in celebrating the Year.

The Year “Amoris Laetitia Family” is intended to spread the message of Amoris laetitia, by encouraging the content of the exhortation to be shared more widely, to help people ‘experience the Gospel of the family as a joy that fills hearts and lives’ (Amoris laetitia, §200).

‘A family that discovers and experiences both the joy of having a gift, and of being a gift for the Church and society, “can become a light in the darkness of the world“ ‘ (AL, §66).

The Year is also aimed at broadening the vision and action of pastoral care for all members of the family, from married couples to children, young people, and especially the elderly and those in difficult family situations.

During this year’s Patrick Oration, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli spoke on the importance of the family as the domestic church.

‘Over these last twelve months we have suffered through the experience of our place of worship being locked to the visitor, and the person in need,’ said Archbishop Comensoli. ‘And yet, in our homes we rediscovered the living bread of God’s love for each person, and the call to serve one another.’

He reflected on the home as the place from which the mission of Jesus Christ can flourish and be nourished.

‘When you read through the four gospels, it’s striking how much time Jesus spent in family homes. There, he ate and slept; rested and played; taught and healed; laughed, cried, sang, and prayed. From them Jesus set out on the road ahead.’

‘Perhaps not surprisingly, then, family households became the ordinary locations in which the Church gathered in the early years. Families of believers would meet regularly in the domesticity of someone’s home, rather than in some dedicated building. Household churches were the locations where the community of believers would gather for fellowship, for the Breaking of the Bread, for the teaching of the Apostles, and for the care of those in need.’ (Acts 2.42-47)

In announcing the Year, the Dicastery also emphasised the need to involve more married couples in diocesan and parish structures to set up family pastoral care, and to help inform the training of pastoral workers, seminarians and priests so that they are equipped to support families in the challenges of today’s world.