Supporting the Family Commission of the Catholic Church
For the Catholic Church in Georgia the current pastoral year is a special one. For it has been consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared in 1917 to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, entrusting them with messages of great importance for the fate of the Church and the world. The essence of the messages was that mankind must convert and finally cease offending God, since our sins will otherwise have dire consequences for the world. Our Lady told the children that through prayer, penance and interior conversion we can help save the world from a great catastrophe.
The apparitions were confirmed by the great ’Miracle of the Sun,” which occurred on October 13, 1917, and was witnessed by tens of thousands of people. They are now officially recognized by the Catholic Church. Since then one of the greatest shrines of the Catholic Church has been built in Fatima and has been visited by some of the Popes, and on several occasions.
As part of this Year of Fatima, proclaimed by the local Catholic Church, a travelling Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be visiting every single one of the 35 Catholic parishes in this small country of the southern Caucasus, on the very edge of Asia. It will be a source of great joy for the Catholic Church in the country which, with its 50,000 or so Catholic faithful—who are, moreover, divided among three separate rites (Armenian, Chaldean and Latin)—represents only a small minority among an overwhelmingly Orthodox population. They are also hoping that these visits by the ’Pilgrim Virgin ’of Fatima will help promote mutual understanding and dialogue with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, who are warmly invited to participate.
Going a Step Further: Formation in the Faith
However, it is not only through these more solemn moments that the Catholic Church in Georgia wants to commemorate this Marian year, but by offering a range of new initiatives aimed at strengthening the faith of the people and helping them shape their lives according to their faith. At the centre of these efforts we find the family. Therefore, the program includes a Bible-based study session for 200 participants, a range of marriage preparation and family-centred initiatives, a Catholic summer camp for young couples and many other activities as well. For it is of great importance especially for families to be aware, not only that they are held in special consideration by the Church, but that they themselves can play an active part, and one of central importance, for the mission of the Church. It is very much up to them to promote a Culture of Life and especially a ‘culture of welcome, “for unborn life, which they can then pass on to the next generation.