Brussels, 19th March 2024

19th March marks the feast of Saint Joseph. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, Saint Joseph’s Day is also celebrated as Father’s Day. We wish everyone a blessed Saint Joseph’s Day, especially to fathers and husbands.

The example of Joseph in the Holy Family provides inspiration to us in our work for families in Europe. Today more than ever, the role of the father is undervalued and overlooked. We pray for the intercession of Saint Joseph on behalf of the workers and fathers that provide for families. Through their labour, wisdom, and encouragement they accompany their families in love and towards the common good.

Saint Joseph and FAFCE

Saint Joseph has a daily presence in the life of FAFCE. This is emphasised by the Statue of Saint Joseph with Christ Child (pictured above) which is located in the chapel of Saint Benedict and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross in Brussels. President of COMECE, Bishop Mariano Crociata described the statue as “a symbolic contribution to this ongoing synodal period, where Catholic families see in St Joseph, patron of the universal Church, not only the fatherhood they experience in their lives, but also the fatherhood they seek in their pastors. Together with the pastors, families are protagonists in the life of the Church and work for peace and to rebuild our wounded communities, in Europe and beyond”.

The scuplture’s artist Jesús Arévalo, winner of the European Art Contest organised in 2023 by FAFCE, where artists were invited to reflect on the figure of St Joseph. The call for artworks embodied two of the directions set by Pope Francis: the Year of Saint Joseph and the Role of Fatherhood in our society today.

This reflection also inspired the sculptor Jesus Arévalo, who explained: “St. Joseph is represented as a Jewish father with the kippah and the sidelocks. His dress is made by straight lines, as a sign of the law and of the Old Testament. He takes his son by the hand and teaches him to make his first steps – so that in the future he would stand on his own and walk freely to make his own endeavors. His Son, Jesus, is dressed with soft curves that shows the innocence of the child and represent the New Testament.”

The focal point of the sculpture, for Arévalo, is the joining of hands between Jesus and Joseph where Jesus and Joseph, where one notices “the tenderness of the father who lovingly observes his son, the confidence of the son, who imitates him in his steps and yet begins to direct his gaze beyond”.

Saint Joseph as Father and Worker

In his letter Patris Corde on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis reflected on the “courageous and firmly proactive” character of Mary’s spouse. For Pope Francis, Joseph teaches us “the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour.” He added that “there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron.”

Taking inspiration from Joseph, FAFCE repeats the call from its President Vincenzo Bassi that “workers cannot be viewed solely as a group of individuals, but as part of families and communities contributing to the common good. They are also often parents, husbands, wives, and sons and daughters – when we consider the rights of workers we should also consider their family responsibilities so as to prevent any discrimination.” 

FAFCE reiterates its the following social policy demands, which include:

  • family-based taxation systems in order to prevent the unequal treatment of parents and carers
  • adequate and fully paid access to maternity, paternity and parental leaves for parents, regardless of effective time worked
  • full freedom to parents to decide on the division of the leave between the father and the mother
  • legally recognise the right to disconnect and a work-free Sunday, as fundamental freedom of each person
  • implement national action plans of the Child Guarantee
  • end discrimination of women in the workplace

Investing in the Family, Investing in the Future

FAFCE reminds that today on Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19th 2024, the federation will host a conference entitled Investing in the Family, Investing in the Future. The conference emphasises the significance of investing in family policies for a brighter future. Romana Tomc MEP (EPP) serves as co-chair on the intergroup on Demographic Challenges, Family and Work Balance, and Youth Transition. It will be held in Brussels at the European Parliament Room 8K002 from 14:30 to 15:30 on Tuesday 19th March 2024.