Vincenzo Bassi, President of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE)
We are experiencing an unprecedented health crisis. Such crisis, due to the measures to contain the pandemic and to widespread insecurity, will have an even greater repercussion on the economic development of the entire world. And, as we can clearly see in the Report of the Family International Monitor on “Family and relational poverty’, the economic crisis is not the only element, but it is always accompanied and followed by a relational poverty that has its roots - especially in Europe - in the prevailing consumerism and individualism.
As Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe we have the opportunity to experience at first hand, thanks to the organisations that belong to our European reality, the disruptive emergence of families’ loneliness; our task, today more than ever, is to denounce the existence of this loneliness in the institutional headquarters of our continent in a concrete way by calling everyone’s attention to reality: Member states, community institutions, but also the Catholic Church herself, of which we are a part.
Loneliness is a deep disease of our era, as prophetically announced by Pope Francis shortly before the beginning of the crisis, with his intervention at the end of the International Conference organised by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life on “The richness of many years of life”. And how could we not recall the words he said before the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, on 25 November 2014? “In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others”.
It seems as if the current pandemic is simply laying bare all our relational poverty and the deep loneliness that is experienced by many families.
Despite this, some families with a sense of brave responsibility, did not renounce to staying in the forefront in the fight against the crisis: is the case of the health-care professionals in the wards of the hospital, who allowed the ordinary to continue, somehow, despite the extraordinary historical situation that we are still living. This is how families take care of school programmes, take care of situations of poverty, as well as of sick people who need home care (not only those who are affected by COVID-19) and, at the same time, they do their best to work and keep the country economy going.
And in this great effort, families are frequently left alone.
What should be done, facing this situation, to defeat the loneliness of families?
Of course, in order to resolve this mainly existential problem, simple bonuses, economic contributions and even words of encouragement are not particularly helpful.
Our experience teaches us that family needs moments for sharing, discussing and reciprocity, not only on the inside, but also on the outside, with other families. For this reason, the moment has come to support and promote family associationism and its creation of new family networks in all its shapes.
This is not simply a matter of giving a response to a current emergency. The current crisis offers to everyone a valuable occasion to regenerate our way of conceiving the function of family and of the people who compose it in our communities.
Recently, the cardinal-elect Mario Grech, in a very interesting interview he gave to ‘La Civiltà Cattolica’, underlined that it would be a huge mistake to go back to the pastoral care of the past and to forget the role of fundamental domestic Church that the family had during the lockdown.
Therefore, a greater and more effective awareness of the original function of the family, as core of subsidiarity, is necessary.
Nevertheless, in the current change of age, in which individualism, the fact of living in “flats” and the chaotic daily life have modified the shape of the relations between families, it is necessary for the families to express their own relational abilities by increasingly creating networks, groups of families in all the communities, including the parishes.
Only in this way, through generative family networks, it will be possible to instil the antidote to loneliness in our communities.
Placing the families at the centre and supporting their protagonist role through a regenerated family mutuality means to allow the families to intervene in a responsible way, with sense of reality and without ideology, in the practical management of the common goods.
Specifically, until today, family has been considered as the sick person who needs to be cured; our proposal it to rather consider it as the cure for the sick person.
And this has very concrete consequences, starting from the local communities, in the mutual help and in the services that the families themselves are already able to carry out, which even include interventions at the level of the institutions of the European Union. The latter cannot even think about a recovery without taking into account the demographic challenge that affects all the member states.
Let us go ahead with faith. This really is an extremely valuable historical moment for proposing again the family as a cure and resource for the entire community.