(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday announced preparations for a Synod of Bishops on the theme of young people, as Pope Francis published a personal letter addressed to the youth of the world. In October 2018 bishops from across the globe will come to Rome for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focused on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”.
In the Vatican press office, a young Cape Verdean man and a young Italian woman joined Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Bishop Fabio Fabene to present the Synod’s preparatory document and to discuss their hopes and expectations for the event.
Philippa Hitchen reports.
24 year old Federica and 21 year old Elvis, both students at Rome’s Sapienza University, spoke clearly about their desire to be part of the process of building “a younger, fresher Church”. A Church which is less rigid, more welcoming, and open to discussions, debates and encounters. They want Church leaders who are willing to spend time listening to the experiences of young people, making them “privileged interlocutors” of a Church which is open and engaged in dialogue with the young generations.
That’s the ambitious goal at the heart of the next Synod of Bishops, focused on the choices that young people make in all walks of their professional, spiritual and personal lives. In his letter, issued to coincide with the start of this Synod process, the Pope tells young Catholics to make their voices heard, saying the Church wants to listen to their sensitivities and their faith, as well as their doubts and criticisms. St. Benedict, he recalls, urged the abbots of his community “to consult, even the young” before making any important decision, as “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best”.
Listen, discern, act
The preparatory document therefore urges bishops to begin by listening to the concrete challenges facing young men and women today, especially through unemployment and insecurity, corruption, addictions, exclusion or discrimination. The second part of the 23 page text calls for a careful process of discernment, guided by the Spirit, to help young people mature and make the right life choices. The third part focuses on the pastoral activity of the Church, identifying the people (parents, priests, religious, teachers, the whole Christian community) and the places (such as schools, universities, parishes, volunteering or social centres, the internet) that can offer vital support for those in their formative years.
Website for youth participation
Finally, the preparatory document follows in the footsteps of the previous Synods on the Family by providing Church leaders with a questionnaire to gather statistics and to try and find out what young Catholics really think and want from their Church. Alongside 15 generic points, there are also more specific questions focused on the different continents. And perhaps most significantly of all, the real novelty of this upcoming Synod is a website, to be launched in March, which will question young people directly about their own expectations, feeding the answers into the working document for the bishops gathered in Rome in October 2018.
Click here for the full English text of the preparatory document for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”