Vatican Starts Construction on Family Center in Nazareth

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Construction should begin soon on a large guesthouse for families on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and an international center dedicated to promoting Catholic teaching on the family.

Blessed John Paul II approved the idea of building the International Center for the Family in Nazareth, Israel, in 2000. Pope Benedict XVI blessed a cornerstone for the building when he visited Nazareth in 2009.

“After long and not always easy-to-reach agreements with church, civil and political authorities in Israel, the project has been approved,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said on 16 April during a Vatican news conference.

Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of Jerusalem told reporters the center — “after a rather long history” of proposals and delays — will give Christian families in Nazareth another opportunity to demonstrate that they have been blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others.

While Christians make up only about 2 percent of the total population in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, they account for more than 35 percent of the population of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, he said.

“The holy places speak of Jesus,” Bishop Marcuzzo said. “The Christian community of the Holy Land continues to speak of Jesus. This community is composed of direct descendants of those who had a direct experience of Jesus, who listened to him and spoke to him, who knew him and followed him.”

Archbishop Paglia said the center, like the Pontifical Council for the Family, will help others recognize the concrete truth of the importance of the family for the good of both individuals and societies. “The family is strong, it resists” all attempts to downgrade its importance. “It’s clobbered, often forgotten and given very little help,” but the family continues to be the place most people first experience love and sharing, and forming a family continues to be the dream of most young people.

In October, Pope Benedict formally approved the establishment of the International Family Center of Nazareth Foundation under the auspices of Archbishop Paglia’s council. Salvatore Martinez, president of the Catholic charismatic movement in Italy, was named president of the foundation, and the movement has been entrusted with the daily operation of the center.

Martinez told reporters he expected construction would be completed in late 2015 or early 2016. The facility will include a community residence for the staff; 100 rooms and a restaurant designed to host families on pilgrimage; a 500-seat church; a playground; a large auditorium; diocesan offices; and meeting rooms.

The foundation, he said, will promote “the spiritual formation and evangelization of families as well as support pastoral outreach to families throughout the world, but particularly in the Holy Land.”

“In Nazareth, where it all began, it can begin again,” he said. The model of the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary and Joseph — cannot be repeated, “but can be appreciated and emulated by all.”

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