At synod, young people call for more involvement, representation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

people from around the world told Pope Francis and members of the Synod of
Bishops that they no longer want to remain on the sidelines but want to take an
active role in the church.

Young men and women from
Chile, Argentina, Australia and Panama were among the delegates who addressed
the synod in its opening days and spoke candidly about their hopes for the
Catholic Church to address the challenges they face in the modern world.

“Young people don’t just
want to be treated as such,” said Silvia Retamales, a member of the
Chilean bishops’ youth office. “We need a different and open church that
doesn’t close the doors on social, sexual and ethnic minorities.”

As the church in Chile
continues to face a growing crisis regarding sexual abuse and cover-up by
members of the clergy, Retamales told the synod members that young Catholics in
the country are “crying out for a structure that totally avoids any disposition
that encourages, allows or covers up any form of abuse.”

The role of women in the
church, she added, must also be strengthened in areas “of real decision-making
and participation in our communities.”

“I would like to be part
of church in which everyone has a place and in which the voice of each member is
considered without ‘demanding’ a certain prototype of faithful, in a profound
encounter with the diversity in which Christ manifests himself,” Retamales

Mariano Garcia, national
coordinator of youth ministry in Argentina, said the church needs to take
greater care of young people, especially the poorest.

Many young men and women, he
said, “live under the scourge of poverty — young people with their
social, economic and cultural rights violated, wounded by the exclusive systems
we are immersed in and that do not favor equality, equity and justice for true
human development.”

Garcia said the church needed
to help young people who are considered “the ‘nobodies’ of the society in which
we live, young people who are cast aside, the ones who nobody cares about.”

For Yithzak Gonzalez, a youth
minister and executive secretary of the youth office of the Panamanian bishops’
conference, the church should reconsider “the methods that are used to
achieve a coherent and responsible discernment that doesn’t turn us into a
statistic: unemployed youths, delinquent youths, youths who neither study or
work, youths with alcohol and drug problems, etc.”

“We want to be part of
the solution to conflicts. We believe that young people must be the first
authors and promoters of their personal fulfillment,” Gonzalez said.

Sebastian Duhao, a member of
the youth council in the Diocese of Paramatta, Australia, recalled his
experience playing saxophone in a youth choir, where he quickly learned that if
he “wanted to be able to play alongside the youth choir, I would have to
learn to play by listening.”

“The church needs to
create similar spaces, where young people can voice their opinions, their
hopes, their needs and their struggles, without being judged,” Duhao said.
“The church, like I had to, must learn to use its ears, to listen to the
world around it, to listen to what is required of it and, most importantly, to
listen to the voices of young people because we have something to offer.


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