Record numbers expected to attend World Meeting of Families in Dublin

Record-breaking numbers will descend on Dublin for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) taking place this week.

Over 37,000 people from 116 different countries are expected to attend the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) for a series of events as part of the Catholic festival.

Families and pilgrimage groups will travel from as far as Africa, Canada, Europe, Australia and India for the three-day event.

WMOF spokeswoman Brenda Drumm said that many of the visitors will be families.

A giant altar is constructed
A giant altar is constructed for outdoor masses as part of the World Meeting of Families taking place at the RDS in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

"We'll have between 12,000 and 14,000 overseas visitors then the rest are from Ireland," she said.

"We will have around 6,500 people under the age of 18, and to put that into perspective, for the last Meeting of World Families in Philadelphia, the pastoral congress was attended by 17,000 people and there was 800 under-18s.

"This is a paid event, all adults paid to get here while under-18s are free.

"We have become a record breaking-event in a number of different ways.

"We are using a huge number of square metres for our marquees and using every bit of available space. We've dedicated tent areas for children and young people."

Around 20,000 people will attend the daily mass at the RDS while some 290 speakers, which includes 90 laywomen and 65 laymen, will address a wide range of topics.

"We are covering everything from technology, to domestic abuse, human trafficking, the impact of technology on family prayer life," Ms Drumm added.

"People will also get to listen to around 44 bishops, cardinals and priests who are also speaking at the events.

"There's something here for everyone.

"We've been working really hard at this for three years and want to give people a joyful family experience."

Meanwhile Jane Mellett, a pastoral worker and project co-ordinator for Our Common Home, the eco-project of WMOF, was instrumental in transforming the car park at St Damian's Monastery into a temporary garden.

Over two days a group of 10 volunteers came together and transformed the blank space into an eco-friendly green area.

Landscape architect Aidan Ffrench designed and oversaw the project which is open to those attending the WMOF.

Ms Mellett said: "The aim of the space is to give pilgrims a contemplative place to be, to think about their relationship with nature and take time out from the festival."

Ireland's newest holy well was also specially built by stonemason Phil O'Neill for the garden.

"We are amazed at how this came together and we hope pilgrims use it to think about their own relationship with creation," Ms Mellett added.

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