ROME — Families need the care and attention of the church, but they also have so much to offer its pastoral programs and priests, said Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.

Dedicating the next year, starting March 19, to the pastoral care of families will be an important initiative, particularly at a time of pandemic and its consequences, he said March 18 during an online Vatican news conference.

Coming at a time when people need hope, outreach and solidarity, the year will be a key opportunity “to show the world that God’s plan for the family is a source of joy and hope. It is truly good news!” he said.

The cardinal and others spoke at the event to present a few details about the “Amoris Laetitia Family Year,” which is meant to strengthen the church’s pastoral support of families and to deeper reflection on “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on family life.

“The pandemic has had very painful consequences for millions of people,” the cardinal said. “But it has been the family, even though it’s been hard hit in many ways, that has shown once again its face as a ‘guardian of life,'” and its place as a home to authentic and loving relationships.

Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the dicastery, said at the news conference that their office would be providing some resources on the website,, for parishes and dioceses throughout the year, and called for ongoing exchanges and ideas from everyone.

They will also release a new video each month, featuring Pope Francis and different families, talking about ways “Amoris Laetitia” can guide people’s lives, and they will publish short pastoral guides for groups or individuals for reflection, she said.

Published five years ago, “Amoris Laetitia” still needs to be fully embraced in people’s hearts, minds and lives, turning its teachings into actual practice, Cardinal Farrell said.

“Families need pastoral care and dedication,” he said, particularly when it comes to “couples and families in crisis, supporting those who have been left all alone, and poor and broken families.”

The year will offer parishes, associations and Catholic individuals the chance to reach out to families in need, the cardinal said, “not just to help them not feel alone facing difficulties, but to walk with them, listen and launch pastoral initiatives that help them to cultivate their love each day.”

One aspect of pastoral renewal requires improved formation for educators, pastoral workers and priests, he said.

Those involved in formation must be able to show families how the grace that flows from the sacrament of marriage is what helps them be able to respond to the challenges in everyday life, he said.

It will be important that priests around the world embrace the pope’s invitation “with generosity and enthusiasm,” he said, so that they can be “brothers and fathers, ready to help families, but also to learn from them.”

Married couples and families are a model of the grace of spousal love, showing what it means “to live love as giving.”

By being with families, priests can be enriched by this special grace so their ministry becomes more joyful and spiritually fruitful, he said.