Pastor Rick Warren of California's Saddleback Church gave the final keynote address of the World Meeting of Families conference, sharing the stage with Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, in Philadelphia on Friday, the day before Pope Francis arrives in the city.
"Thank you for caring about the family," warren told the crowd as he began his address on the concluding day of the conference, and quoted Pope Francis as saying that the family is under threat, according to National Catholic Register.
Held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See's Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is the world's largest Catholic gathering of families. This year's theme for the conference was "Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive," emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on society.
"In today's society, materialism is idolized, immorality is glamorized, truth is minimized, sin is normalized, divorce is rationalized, and abortion is legalized," bestselling author Warren said. "In TV and movies, crime is legitimized, drug use is minimized, comedy is vulgarized, and sex is trivialized. In movies, the Bible is fictionalized, churches are satirized, God is marginalized, and Christians are demonized. The elderly are dehumanized, the sick are euthanized, the poor are victimized, the mentally ill are ostracized, immigrants are stigmatized, and children are tranquilized. In families around the world, our manners are uncivilized, speech is vulgarized, faith is secularized, and everything is commercialized."
Pastor Warren said Christians are often disorganized and demoralized, and their faith is compartmentalized, and witness compromised. "So what do we need? We need to revitalize our worship, minimize our differences, mobilize our members, and evangelize the lost, and we need to re-energize our families."
He went on to say that the family "is a launch pad for ministry."
Warren said he was inspired as a teen by the late Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen.
Warren shared a story Sheen once told about his visit to a place where leprosy-affected people lived. The bishop bent over to speak to a man and his cross fell into the man's open wound. Sheen said the Holy Spirit filled him with an intense feeling of love for that man, and he took up the cross from the wound.
"I thought that was the finest definition of Christian living I'd ever heard," Pastor Warren said. "The whole business of life is to go out in the sores of life, where people are living and dying and suffering and pick up the cross. That is our ministry, and that is our service."
In his address, Cardinal O'Malley spoke about Warren.
"It's important that Rick Warren is here," O'Malley was quoted as saying. "This is a witness of unity that's important in today's world, as we strive to proclaim the gospel of life: the need to protect every human being from the first moment of conception until natural death, to defend the family as a sanctuary of life, and family as a sacred calling described on the first pages of the Bible as a man who leaves his mother and father to be joined in one flesh to his wife. It's a great consolation to share this stage with a fellow Christian who is truly committed to preaching the Gospel. We are truly blessed by his presence and his friendship."
The family conference seeks to add depth of meaning to the Catholic understanding of families.
In his historic address to Congress Thursday, Pope Francis mentioned the World Meeting of Families.
"I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families," The Washington Post quoted the pope as saying. "It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life."