Pope pins church's survival on family

2012-05-31 11:07


Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI leaves a scandal-hit Vatican on Friday for the World Meeting of Families in Milan, where he will argue that the traditional family is the key to galvanising a flagging Church.

The pontiff will have a chance to shake off rumours of a power struggle at the heart of the Holy See and meet with young believers, as the Church battles the West's growing openness to unconventional family structures, homosexuality and divorce.

One million people are expected to attend a final mass to wind up the event on Sunday, which will take place at Bresso airport near Italy's economic capital.

Milan is not only the largest diocese in Europe, it is also home to Cardinal Angelo Scola - tipped by many as a possible successor to the pope before the leak of hundreds of secret papal documents threw the Church hierarchy into disarray.

The "Vatileaks" scandal, which has sparked rumours that a group of rebel cardinals may be jockeying to get one of their own to the papacy, resulted last week in the arrest of Pope Benedict's personal butler.

There are concerns that the ordeal may have taken a heavy toll on the elderly pontiff.

New evangelism

Speaking to the masses about family life will give the pontiff a chance to divert attention from the scandal, which some believe has made him appear weak and powerless to stop the Church imploding.

The 85-year-old, who appeared drawn and tired when he spoke this week of the sorrow the scandal has caused him, faces a hectic schedule in Milan.

From a concert at the prestigious Scala opera house, to a meeting with young pilgrims in the San Siro football stadium and a celebration with 300 000 faithful, Benedict will have little time to rest before Sunday's big mass.

He will tell those worried that the Church's influence in the West is in sharp decline that the traditional family will serve as the engine of new evangelism, and will call on governments to put family rights first.

Vatican officials are alarmed by legislation being adopted in a growing number of countries that recognises gay marriage or defends gay unions.

The pope has spoken often of the importance of family unity and lamented the spread of divorce, abortion, homosexuality and infidelity. He has warned the traditional family is "disintegrating" under the weight of secularisation.

International family fair

Benedict is likely to dedicate his message to those with children, arguing for a greater balance between work and family life and insisting on the importance of keeping Sunday as a day of rest.

According to experts, he is also likely to call for larger families to pay less tax and for women to have more flexible working hours.

The event is also scheduled to include an international theological congress and an "international family fair".

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  pope benedict xvi  |  vatican city  |  religion

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