Pope Francis warns families of 'threat' posed by social media at uplifting Croke Park concert
- The Pope addressed tens of thousands of concert-goers at Croke Park
- He warned families that social media can be 'isolating' and a barrier to real communication
- Pope Francis also spoke of the power of love and the joy of family unity
- He said that the elderly are a vital part of the family support network
Pope Francis warned about the dangers of social media at the hugely successful World Festival of Families at Croke Park tonight.
The Pope addressed tens of thousands of concert-goers at GAA headquarters in Dublin where musical artists served up a string of show-stopping performances.
Global superstar Andrea Bocelli and Irish opera queen Celina Byrne performed Ave Maria together on stage minutes before the Pope addressed the huge crowd.
Speaking to some 80,000 people, the Pope said that social media can be "isolating" in today's world.
"It is important that these media never become a threat to the real web of flesh and blood relationships by imprisoning us in a virtual reality and isolating us from the very relationships that challenge us to grow to our full potential in communion with others," he warned.
Pope Francis also spoke of the power of love and the joy of family unity.
"Today in Dublin we are gathered for a family celebration of thanksgiving to God for who we are: one family in which we rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who grieve or feel knocked down by life," said the Pontiff.
He added that a family is where its members care for each other and for everyone "for God the Father has made all of us his children in baptism."
"That is one reason why I keep encouraging parents to baptise their children as soon as possible, so that they can become part of this great family of God. We need to invite everyone to the party," he said.
Throughout the concert, members of different families from around the world spoke to the huge audiences about their own experiences and challenges in meeting the difficulties of everyday life.
Among those to give their testimony were Irish couple Mary and Damian Richardson, who spoke of life with their 10 children.
Pope Francis named the couple in his own address, paying tribute to their love and faith.
"We see this love in Mary and Damian and their family of ten children ... You experienced the power of God's love to change your lives completely and to bless you with the joy of a beautiful family.
"You told us the key to your family life is truthfulness," he said, stating that Jesus is the source of love and truth.
The Argentine Pontiff stressed that the extended family unit is the key to a successful society.
"A society that does not value grandparents is a society that has no future," he said.
"A Church that is not mindful of the covenant between generations will end up lacking the thing that really matters which is love."
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Pope Francis also warned that the elderly are a vital part of the family support network.
"Our grandparents teach us the meaning of conjugal and parental love.
"They themselves grew up in a family and experienced the love of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
"So they are a treasury of experience and wisdom for the new generation."
The Pontiff said the lack of such experience and support networks exerts enormous strain on younger families.
"It is a big mistake not to ask the elderly about their experience or to think that talking to them is a waste of time."
A number of people delivered witness statements before the crowd as to various challenges facing families.
"Families everywhere are challenged to keep growing, to keep moving forward, even amid difficulties and limitations just as past generations did," Pope Francis said.
"All of us are part of a great chain of families stretching back to the beginning of time.
"Our families are a treasury of living memory as children become parents and grandparents in turn.
"From them we receive our identity, our values and our faith."
The festival opened with Maev Ni Mhaolcatha singing the hymn Liber Hymnorum, followed by the Begley and Gavin families playing slip jigs and reels.
One of the biggest cheers of the night was when Cathy Jordan sang the Shane MacGowan classic song 'A Rainy Night in Soho.'
She was followed on stage by Nathan Carter singing 'Everybody Hurts,' accompanied by Hannah Wolverson and The Deaftones.
Later, actor Patrick Bergin took to the stage with the stadium choir to belt out Leonard Cohen's song 'Anthem.'
One of the liveliest performances was the spectacle delivered by the Riverdance troupe who set feet tapping right around the stadium.
They were followed by Daniel O'Donnell singing 'Let Your Love Flow' which proved to be one of the hits of the night.
Later the High Hopes choir, consisting of members of the homeless community, delivered a well-received performance.
The biggest performances of the night followed the Pope' address when Celina Byrne sang 'Ag Criost an Siol' and then a towering performance by Andrea Bocelli singing 'Nessum Dorma.'
The festival closed with all performers and choirs coming on stage to sing together 'Amen, Amen, Amen.'
While the Croke Park event was the centrepiece of the Pontiff's visit, the largest event will be the open air Mass at the Phoenix Park on Sunday.
Pope Francis will attend the Phoenix Park after paying a whistle stop visit to the Knock Shrine where he will attend the Angelus.
He flies back to the Vatican shortly after 6pm on Sunday with a special press conference about his Irish visit to be staged on the plane back to Rome.