A few days ago the General Curia of the Jesuits hosted the International Seminar on the situation of young people, in preparation for the XV General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to take place October 2018 on the theme: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.” Eighty-two participants (among them, 21 young people, 16 experts from lay universities, 17 from ecclesial athenaeums, 20 formators and youth ministers, 9 representatives of the bodies of the Holy See and 50 guests engaged in the pastoral care of the young generations. The journey leading up to the Synod began last January with the publication of the preparatory document, which contained a questionnaire to help “entitled bodies” express their understanding of the world of young people and continued with the creation of a website (youth.synod2018.va) and with a dedicated questionnaire for youths aged 16-29. We asked Fabio Fabene, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, to share an overview of the preparations leading up the XV ordinary general assembly of October 2018.
Your Excellency, at the present stage of “listening” in preparation for the Synod, what are the major themes of concern for young people and that appear to emerge also at a first reading of the proposed questionnaires? The questionnaires related to the preparatory document must be handed in by 31 October and they are yet to be submitted. We will learn more after that deadline. For those on-line, posted on the website, the deadline is the end of November, but there are already over 100,000 completed questionnaires, with about 250,000 contacts: a significant number. A preliminary and partial reading shows that
Young people appreciate the fact that the Church has showed her openness to listen to them.
The family is another theme that they hold dear. A large number of youths want to share their personal stories with the Pope
What are the proposals and/or suggestions young people have made for the Synod? As we have seen also in the recent international seminar, we are receiving various proposals. These include the creation of a team of young people that will support the work of the General Secretariat of the Synod to coordinate occasions for encounter and dialogue involving young people and the bishops during the Synod, and to involve a number of youths in Holy See organisms on a permanent basis.
These requests show that young generations yearn to be protagonists inside the Church…Indeed. Now we will need to reflect on those suggestions. This is a period dedicated to listening to young people ahead of the Synod, and I believe that the requests will be submitted to the Synod Fathers. They signal that young people intend to take part in the life of the Church. But young people also ask for much more…
Young people also ask the Church to exert coherent guidance, to be listened to, and to assume responsibility.
They imagine a Church that is increasingly dedicated to serving the poor. Such requests challenge us even more to keep up with their pace and call upon the Church to better herself and walk towards the future. However, it should also be recognized that many of the requests presented by the young are already established inside the Church. The Church has been calling for coherence for a long time, not only that of her shepherds but also that of her faithful, that invites to listen placing herself in this same dimension, as was the case in the recent International Symposium. Young people look for the poor and this is what Pope Francis demands of everyone when he speaks of a Church for the poor and of the poor. But most of all
Young people want a Church that is a home, a family and a community.
These words echo those shared by Saint John Paul II at the end of the great Jubilee of the year 2000, when he described the Church as a “home and a school of communion.” Young people are the hope of the Church and the Church is their hope for the future.
Young people at the Synod: are you envisaging ways to “integrate” some of them within the assembly? Young people will be among the Synod’s auditors, but we are studying the possibility of giving them a voice.
It is often said that the Church should be closer to the young generations. However, the contrary – how young people can be near the Church and support her in her mission – is seldom mentioned. How can young people accompany the Church in the world? Young people want to have a central role in the ecclesial community and I firmly believe that their wish may lead the Church to areas and places that she would hardly reach out to otherwise. Young people can usher the Church’s presence into areas she has not yet come to or where her presence is most needed.