Church must be more merciful to complexities of families in Ireland today

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn to address ‘Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family’ conference at Mary Immaculate College on July 13th

Conference is a key moment in build up to World Meeting of Families 2018

The Church must show mercy in the context of the new and more complexed narrative around family in Ireland today, Pope Francis’ lead cardinal on his post-Synod letter on the family, ‘Amoris Laetitia’, has stated.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Ireland this week to address the ‘Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family’ conference at Mary Immaculate College on Thursday - the first major conference to be held as part of the build up to the World Meeting of Families next year in Ireland - Christoph Schönborn said that reinvigorating family is the great mission of the Church today.

The Church, he said, must listen to couples in all relationships in a way it hasn’t before.

Cardinal Schönborn, who is Archbishop of Vienna and son of a divorced couple, was chosen by Pope Francis to present Amoris Laetitia following the two Synods on the Family in 2014 and 2015.   He will give two separate addresses, one specifically on Amoris Laetitia and the other, a public lecture in the evening on ‘The Parish: Family of Families’ at Thursday’s conference.

“I’m really looking forward to coming to Ireland for this conference.  Ireland is synonymous with family, a country that traditionally has had family at its core,” he said.

“But like most western nations, in particular, family in Ireland has complexities that it didn’t have heretofore.  Second unions, divorce, same-sex unions; these are all part of a new narrative around the family in Ireland. So there is a lot of change and the Church must show mercy in the context of that change; it must be willing to meet families where they are today.

“Ultimately, and this is certainly the case with Ireland, for all the crises in the institution of marriage, as Amoris Latetia states, the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people.”

Amoris Laetitia, he said, means the ‘joy of love’ and is an invitation that excludes no one, without exception.  “While it (Amooris Laetitia) does not herald doctrinal change, it most definitely encourages greater discernment on the part of the Church when it comes to sensitivities around family today. That means we as ministers must listen like perhaps we haven’t before and listen to all. To people in both regular and ‘so-called’ irregular relationships.

“Society has been founded on marriage and the weakening of family will pose a threat to individuals, to community values and, as Amoris states, the moral progress of cities and countries. Reinvigorating family is perhaps our great mission today.  The Church’s way is the way of Jesus and that is a way of mercy and reinstatement.”

Thursday’s conference is organised by MIC’s Institute for Pastoral Studies and according to theologian and fellow speaker at it, Jessie Rodgers, having Cardinal Schönborn present will be an opportunity to get the deepest insight yet in Ireland into the Pope’s new and more merciful direction on the family.

“I am, as a theologian, a wife and a mother really excited when I see things coming along that help people to match theory and theology with real lived life. I am very encouraged by the conversation that is coming from the hierarchy. Particularly because it’s a conversation that has been informed by real genuine listening.

“One of the things that often crops up in what Pope Francis writes and says is the notion that the real is greater and more important than the ideal. I think that the conversation now is about how faith is lived in real families and real situations.

“I think that this conference, not just the conference but the whole build up toward the World Meeting of Families, has huge potential, huge possibilities.  It would have been wonderful, of course, if we had Pope Francis but I would say that with the Cardinal we are as probably as close as we can get. What we will really be hearing is the mind and the heart of Pope Francis on this whole issue.”

The event opens at 2p.m. and all elements will take place at the Tara Building, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.  To book your place, go to, call Deirdre on 061 204507 or email The full programme costs €20 to attend, with a €10 fee for the public lecture at 7p.m.