Australian family’s story of loss and radical forgiveness inspires the Catholic world
June 27, 2022
Jude Hennessy, Family and life
Report by Jude Hennessy
On the final day of the World Meeting of Families 2022, Australian couple Danny and Leila Abdallah addressed the delegates from nations around the world. The room quickly transitioned into stillness and silence as their story was conveyed in numerous languages via headphones. Most delegates had no inkling of what they were about to hear, with no prior knowledge of the suffering this family has endured, and how they are now being used for God’s purpose to witness to the healing power of God’s love and mercy, and to urge people, no matter their circumstances, to radical forgiveness.
Without a doubt, this was the most impactful talk of the whole conference, with Danny and Leila moving all those gathered to intense silence, to tears and to amazement. At one point, Danny called those gathered to deeply understand the words of the Our Father, not only in seeking our own forgiveness from God, but at the same time understanding God’s expectation that we do the same for others.
In looking around the room, literally hundreds of delegates had tears streaming down their faces, many considering who they needed to show mercy, in taking seriously the example of this family, and their exhortation to forgive, no matter what. A bishop from Europe embraced Danny and Leila afterwards, remarking that he never cries, not even at the death of his dear father, but this story melted his heart and caused him to weep.
There were two standing ovations in this talk, the only two of the entire five day conference, one at the conclusion of their address, but also powerfully, as Leila named this day as being the eve of her son Anthony’s birthday, when she asked the assembly to join with her in wishing him a happy heavenly 16th.
With their four children at their side, Danny and Leila were mobbed at the conclusion of their presentation, with requests from bishops, clergy and Catholic organisations for photos, for prayers, and for them to visit numerous countries around the world to share their story, from Europe, to the Americas, the Middle East and Asia.
Despite the Holy Father’s current health issues, efforts continue to organise a meeting for the family between Pope Francis and the Abdallahs as they look to establish 1 February as i4give day around the globe.
You can watch the Abdallah’s speech in full below (with thanks to EWTN):
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.