Brighton will play host to Mother Teresa next month for a Congress on the Family. Rita Wall reports.
"GREAT! We've got the Pampers!" gleams Joanna Bogle. Everyone smiles. It's just another good omen which promises that their endeavours next month will be successful.
Joanna and her husband James, along with an enthusiastic team, are spearheading the biggest congress ever on the family in Britain. Hence the Pampers . . . "well if you are going to talk family, you certainly have to accommodate all the members" says Joanna.
The Princess of Wales will open the conference in Brighton on July 12, and it will run over four days including workshops on all aspects of family life. Mother Teresa of Cacutta will be among the guest speakers. Joanna is expecting over 4,000 people to attend.
Are we really facing a crisis in family life? There is no doubt in Joanna's mind. "Britain is facing a social crisis and unless we do something about it, things will get even worse."
For example, she points out, Britain now has the highest divorce rate in the EC, with 40 per cent of families involved in some sort of breakup. With this increase there is a related rise in poverty as single parent families struggle to make ends meet, and there is an even bigger demand for housing and an increased strain placed on relationships in the family, she adds.
"The droves of young people living on the streets in Britain is testimony to the ruined state of the family," Joanna emphasises. She is critical of the government. "Some of their legislation is encouraging family breakup rather than supporting an essential element in our society." She quotes the poll tax, which to her mind is forcing many parents to eject their older children from the family because they cannot foot exhorbitant community charge bills.
Joanna hopes that this conference will inform people of the validity of the family unit in our society, and the important role it still has to play. "Think of the many old folks homes. If the family was truly supported by society and the state, it could provide much better care and attention for elderly relatives."
The media and the materialist values of the western world are not helpful to the family either, she comments. "Material values, individual goals, and aspirations have taken over from caring and loving. Families are really about communities and unless we pay attention to them we are heading for the destruction of our society."
Ominous words, but this coordinator stresses that the congress will not prioritorise the dreadful state of the family. "We want to celebrate family life and show that it is a positive model and can be a forward looking aspect of our society."
Family congresses of this scale have taken place around the world before, but this is the first one here. Among the individuals supporting this massive event are Cardinal Basil Hume, and local Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton.
If you're coming, there are creche facilities available (as well as Pampers). For further information on the Congress for the Family contact 071-8209411.