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Cardinal Bagnasco on young people: “Positive and sacred dissidence for Europe”

Young people and Europe? “They can contribute dissidence: a positive, sacred form of dissidence, obviously of no other kind. Namely, to swim against the tide and be able to say with love, passion and enthusiasm that “the Emperor has no clothes”, which is to say that Europe risks being left with no clothes on, to have nothing left of her immense richness and beauty.” Interview with Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, upon the conclusion of the European Symposium on young people that ended today in Barcelona, in preparation for the Synod of October 2018

Il cardinale Angelo Bagnasco alla Festa degli italiani alla Gmg (Cracovia, 27 luglio 2016)

The Church in Europe focuses on the young. It is the firm belief of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, CEI President, President of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, who brought together in Barcelona the delegates of all European Churches engaged in the service for the young: persons in charge of the pastoral care of young people, of vocations, catechesis, schools, and universities. A four-day meeting to discuss the theme of the accompaniment of young people, with a view to the Bishops’ Synod of 2018. “Youth is probably the best season in life to proclaim the Lord in this Continent, whose greatness is found in its history, beauty, values, ideals, and in its Christian roots in need of further impetus today, a Continent that appears tired and at loss. We believe that young people, despite or perhaps precisely because of their turbulences and disorientations, are the missionaries born to announce the youth of the Lord to a weary world.”

What is your message to European youths?

They should listen to themselves, to the deep questions of their hearts, rekindling their truest soul and entrusting themselves more to the Lord and to the Church as a Christian community. We are not afraid of the Lord Jesus who asks everything but gives everything. And the “everything” of God is far more that our own “everything.”

The Europe we live in is experiencing a crisis that strives to leave room for the young. Where did the Old Continent go wrong?

She denied herself and her own roots and thought she could reshape, rethink and redefine herself, regardless of those roots. But it’s impossible, in all respects.

If Europe continues distancing herself from her own origins she will turn into something different, which won’t be any better.

Here in Barcelona you called upon young people to feel they are at the heart of Europe and not to remain in the peripheries. What can young people contribute to a tired Europe, in search of herself?

They can contribute dissidence. A positive, sacred form of dissidence, obviously one of no other kind, which consists in swimming against the tide and saying with love, passion ad enthusiasm: “The Emperor has no clothes”, which means that Europe risks being naked, having nothing left of her richness and beauty. Thus swimming against the tide implies making a new start to create the true habit of the Europe we all love.

Pope Francis has dedicated the next Synod to young people…

It’s a very timely decision that also helps us bishops in our dioceses. From a certain perspective he wished – and we with him – to spotlight the world of young people that in Europe is slowly disappearing. This may seem exaggerated, but that realm is truly declining. The demographic problem is known, addressed with different solutions in different Countries. Moreover, the Pope’s decision makes young people feel that they are at the heart of the Christian community, not in the periphery, and that they enjoy the full appreciation and trust of the Church. We wish to convey the motherhood of the Church. We are aware that our Europe is lacking authoritative points of reference needed by all, by the world of young people in particular. The Church wishes to serve as a point of reference, as a mother that one can count on although unfortunately young people fail to perceive the Church’s motherhood. But that motherhood should be – and is  – present inside the Church.

What does the Church ask of young people?

To help the Church be near them, to be increasingly closer and in an increasingly better way, through their hopes, dreams and turbulences. As a mother. A Church without young people is like a family without children. Youth is the season that best expresses the future, the hope, the imagination, and the desire to be present, to be there. This patrimony deserves being enhanced, promoted, cherished and revived. This is true for the Church and for Europe as a whole. It’s a source of richness, a premise, a reason of great hope for the Church and for the continent. I hope they will be, as they truly are, contagious in the places where they live.

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