VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is moving ahead with plans to build the International Family Center in Nazareth, a complex that will include a church, meeting spaces, a hotel for visitors and play areas for children, all as part of an effort to build up the family in the Holy Land.
The project was presented April 16 at a Vatican press conference by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Salvatore Martinez from the Renewal in the Holy Spirit movement, and auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of the Latin rite in Jerusalem.
“There are places endowed with an extraordinary evocative and symbolic strength. Nazareth is one of those. It is the place where Jesus grew up,” where his house and family were, Archbishop Paglia said as he emphasized some of the reasons for choosing Nazareth as the location.
“It is a land — today, even more than at his time — full of tension and pain. But perhaps, precisely because of this, it is a land that more than any other claims the right to peace and universal brotherhood. … Christian families can become co-authors of this dream,” the archbishop said.
Martinez, who is the national president of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, hopes that the center will “become a privileged place for spreading the ‘gospel of the family,’ a ‘showcase’ of all the beautiful, the good, the true and the just that the family offers and witnesses to in the world.”
The project took a major step in October 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI officially erected a foundation based in Vatican City by the same name, giving it the legal status it needed to proceed.
The International Family Center in Nazareth Foundation was officially launched under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Family on Jan. 18.
The center will be built on a hill that overlooks the city and the Basilica of the Annunciation. The Holy See already owns some of the land that will be used, while another parcel will have to be purchased.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be 12 million euro (15.75 million dollars).
Once it is fully operational, the family center will have a 500-seat auditorium, a diocesan pastoral center, meeting and study rooms, a 500-seat church, lodging for a residential community, a 100-room hotel with a restaurant designed to accommodate families, a playground and an outdoor children’s entertainment area.
Archbishop Paglia described the center’s mission as being a place that encourages the spirituality of the family, provides formation of parental and family life and helps families prepare to engage in the New Evangelization.
“It will be a permanent observatory of study on family ministry in the world, especially in the Holy Land and the Middle East … and it will be a material support to families in need, especially in the Holy Land, through international fundraising projects,” he said.
At the press conference, Martinez also announced the launch of the Portal of the Family, an online site developed under the concept of a “gift economy.”
The portal aims to provide a wide range of free services from doctors, psychologists, economists, lawyers, educators and priests, who will interact with families to support grandparents, parents and children in their Christian lives. It will only be available in Italian at first, but other languages, including English, are planned for the future.