The Congress on the Family, which concluded last October 2nd, was organized by the Catholic University, the Andes University, and "Finis Terrae" University and held in Santiago, Chile, on the occasion of the bicentennial anniversary of its independence. The objective of the Congress was to go beyond the simple diagnosis of the situation of the family in the country and offer proposals and concrete indications for its revival.
In the inauguration of the Congress, Monsignor Alejandro Goic, President of the Bishops Conference of Chile, expressed the necessity to deeply reflect on the issue of recognizing and respecting the rights of the family in Chile. Felipe Kast, Secretary of Social Affairs, highlighted a crude reality supported by empirical data: in the past twenty years, the number of single-parent families has increased from 22% to 27%, while the number of nuclear families has decreased from 67% to 58%. In turn, it has been reported that among the families that live in extreme poverty, 60% are single-parented, and out of these, in almost all of them the mother is the head of the family.
The Congress, which attracted national and international leading experts, proposed public policies and led a quiet and profound reflection on marriage and family education. Each of these topics was addressed by an international speaker and a panel of experts. The first series of sessions involved public policies. Eduardo Hertefelder, from the Institute of Family Policies (Spain), presented an analysis of the realty of the family in Europe. His report included the reasons for its deterioration and his message was clear: do not make the same mistakes in Chile. The panel of experts reflected on the family as a social good. They consequently proposed legal changes that would allow for the strengthening of the family in Chilean legislation.
The second part of the conference was dedicated to the family and matrimony. Alvaro Sierrra (Colombia) addressed the family as the primary source of education. Sierra highlights that the unconditional love, warmth, and acceptance that is transmitted from the family to its members are the best educational factors; this task is a right and a duty that mustn’t be renounced. The panel of experts then emphasized the education on the faith in these times of great uncertainty. The message is nevertheless encouraging: the faith is one of the principle motors of change.
In the third round of sessions dedicated specifically to marriage, Tomas Melendo (Spain) spoke of matrimony as the pillar of the family. He explained that matrimony, a fruit of human freedom, allows for and demands the development of the capacity to love throughout one's entire life. This capacity to love and to reciprocally be loved, is only possible in virtue of the intrinsic dignity of the human person. In the corresponding panel of the third round of sessions, the difference between man and woman and their complementarity was analyzed. Emphasis was placed on the need to overcome the differences and the difficulties.
Without a doubt, the conference was a success; not only for the number of attendants, but also for their enthusiastic participation. It was made clear that the value of the family continues to be considered a fundamental pillar of Chilean society.