Families, from Ukraine, elsewhere, tell pope of woes, joys

Pope Francis reaches out to a young boy as he attends the Festival of Families in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, on the first day of the World Meeting of Families, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Families from many places, including war-ravaged Ukraine, told Pope Francis their stories of joys, sorrows and hopes at an event on a stage at the Vatican Wednesday evening.

The occasion at the Vatican’s auditorium was part of events this week for the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic church tradition established by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

Francis was brought on stage in a wheelchair, as he is battling a knee problem, and listened in silence as five families recounted how they dealt with the challenges of staying united as a couple while raising children.

After listening to several mothers, fathers and some of their older children, Francis offered his reflections. He told a Ukrainian woman and her daughter, who are refugees in Italy, that they had given voice to those whose “loves have been shattered by the war in Ukraine.”

“We see in you the faces and stories of so many men and women who have had to flee their homeland,” the pontiff said.

Other families included a couple who had lost their adult daughter to cancer, diagnosed while she was pregnant, and, at her choice, wasn’t fully treated so she could give birth to a healthy child.

Still another was the widow, with three young daughters, of an Italian ambassador to Congo who was killed there along with an Italian police officer and their Congolese driver when gunmen attacked a U.N. convoy traveling to a school to observe an assistance program.

On Saturday, thousands of families will join the pope in Mass in St. Peter’s Square.