Presentation of the Promoter of the Experience
Ernesto Emanuele, founder and president of the associations "Separated Christian Families" and "Separated Faithful," both members of the "Forum of Family Associations", lives and works in Milan as an entrepreneur. Married for 15 years, and separated for 26, he has three children; for 25 years he has been helping separated families.
1. How precisely did your initiative start?
Everything began in 1990 with an initially more general and open, secular discourse that led to the creation of the association "Separated Christian Families" and then was slowly developed in Catholic circles. "Separated Faithful" in particular comes from the awareness, increasingly felt and strong, that the separated Catholics in the Church community are the actors and not the objects of the pastoral care dedicated to them. Those who are separated in fact need to be helped and guided by others who have gone through the same experience and suffered the same difficulties: it is no longer possible to think of giving them effective support by entrusting the management of this service to the normal couples because what we as an association have unfortunately noted up to now is that, in this area, each diocese receives the separated faithful in a different way, without coordination with the others, and entrusts the care of a separated Catholics to married couples.
2. What developments have there been in your association in recent years? What are the plans for the future?
Among the many good results, I would like to especially remember a recent one, which is the fruit of the battle for Law 54 about shared custody that we have promoted in the past months. Yet, just as important, although apparently it may not seem so, was the response to the Questionnaire in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. For us it was a precious opportunity for voicing in the Church, and consequently into society, the requests of the separated faithful. As an association, we represent in fact ideally over 4 million Italians, separated since 1975 up to today; and nearly 500 thousand of them live in the diocese of Milan.
This phenomenon with its impressive dimensions incited us a few months ago, together with the Institute of Anthropology, to ask researchers at the Catholic University to do an analysis of the phenomenon of separation, highlighting all its aspects. The results will be presented at a conference in January.
Much of our work consist, in addition to receiving the separated, in dialoguing with institutions and organizations such as Italian Bishops' Conference, the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the dioceses, in order to propagate everywhere a new sensitivity with respect to the world of the separated, a sensibility that up to now has unfortunately been generally unfamiliar.
3. What is the difference between the associations "Separated Christian Families" and "Separated Faithful"?
"Separated Christian Families" was founded in 1998, and since then brings together all the situations, without exception, of family separation, including those of couples who have lived together, who have not married or who were married at the City Hall. Up to now, this association has helped thousands of people. On the other hand, "Separated Faithful," founded in 2001, answers the need of allowing separated believers who are part of the Catholic community to have a space where they can meet, a space characterized by moments of specific formation on the sacrament of matrimony that allows the development of a distinctive spirituality that they will represent in the context of their parishes or dioceses. In the course of these years, more than 350 people have received support and help from "Separated Faithful."
4. Do your meetings of testimony and sharing in "Separated Christian Families" follow a particular itinerary in terms of content? How are they organized during the year and long do they last? Where are they held and how can one participate in them?
We have about thirty groups, scattered around Italy, who meet monthly, for example in Milan, Genoa, Rome and Latina. At the local level, meetings can last a whole day or a few hours. In the first case, there is always a priest who presents a catechesis; in the latter, the encounters are divided into three parts: a time for sharing, reading the Word of God with its resonances, and prayer for individuals.
Equally important are the national meetings held twice a year. We have had many beautiful gatherings in Verona, Orta San Giulio, Perugia, Bologna, Biella and, recently, in Rome. On these occasions the catechesis is usually entrusted to the bishops or cardinals (in the past, for example, the meditation was led by Cardinal Antonelli and Cardinal Caffara). In addition, Masses are celebrated in a number of Italian localities: in Rome we meet every third Saturday of the month in Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Piazza del Popolo, and in Milan we come together in San Bartolomeo (from December on in San Gioacchino).
Any separated believer who wants to contact the associations "Separated Faithful" and "Separated Christian Families" can call them at: 02/6554736. The participation at our events is totally free.