Pope gives youths three missions before synod, World Youth Day

By Cindy Wooden

(CNS) — On the eve of Palm Sunday, Pope Francis gave young people several
missions: to ask their grandparents what their dreams were; to work to make
those dreams reality; and to let their bishops and the pope himself know what
they need from the church.

launching the youths’ preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops and for World
Youth Day 2019 in
Panama, Pope Francis gathered with youths and young adults for an evening
prayer vigil April 8 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.

80-year-old pope surprised some people with two references to his own age,
first pointing out that while they are preparing for the future, “at my
age we are preparing to go.” The young people present objected loudly.
“No?” the pope responded, “Who can guarantee life? No one.”

returning to his appeal that they speak to their grandparents, the pope said,
“I don’t know if it will be me, but the pope will be in Panama and he will
ask you, ‘Did you speak with your elders?'”

Francis arrived at the basilica with a prepared text, but as a Franciscan
sister and a young man who survived a terrible accident shared their stories,
the pope took notes, eventually setting aside the text.

theme of the world Synod of Bishops, which will meet in October 2018, is: “Young people, faith and
vocational discernment.”

let’s just call it, ‘the synod of young people,'” the pope said. It should
be “a synod from which no young person feels excluded.”

church could hold a synod involving Catholic youths active in parish life or
Catholic organizations and lay movements. But Pope Francis said that is not
what the church or young people need.

is the synod of young people and we all want to hear them,” including
young people who have moved away from the church or are questioning the
existence of God, he said. “Every young person has something to say to
others, something to say to the adults, to the priests, sisters, bishops and
the pope. We all need to hear you.”

people must harness their energy and ideals and set out, “one alongside
another, but looking to the future,” he said. “The world today needs
young people who go in haste,” like Mary went to her pregnant cousin

Sister Marialisa, 30, who shared her vocation story, is an example, the pope said. Not every
path she took was the right one, but eventually she discovered God’s purpose
for her life and the way she was called to serve others.

Italian nun told the young people she decided church wasn’t for her after she
was confirmed at the age of 13. A couple of years later, a friend asked her to join a
project the parish youth group was doing, “and I accepted only because
there were a bunch of boys who went, too.”

Marialisa said her involvement grew and she discovered a group of people who
didn’t care what she looked like or what she wore, but cared about her. They
helped her discover Jesus and his love.

she wanted to be an actress, she went to school in Rome, but she still had a
nagging feeling something was missing from her life. She met the Franciscans
and decided she needed to find out if being a consecrated woman was the way she
was to live “the vocation to love.” Now she works with children in an
area of southern Italy where the Mafia is strong. She said she tries to help
them discover they are loved and have a right “to dream and dream

Francis said too often the world treats young people as “disposable”
by not providing an adequate education or job opportunities. And, he said,
“many young people must flee, immigrate to other lands. It’s harsh to say,
but often young people are disposable material and we cannot tolerate

will be challenging and involve taking risks, the pope told the young people,
but they must have the courage to change the world and to start over when they

try to find the beauty in little things,” the pope said, pointing as an
example to Pompeo Barbieri, who also shared his story with the young people.

23-year-old Barbieri recounted how, at the age of 8, firefighters pulled him
from the rubble of his school in
San Giuliano di Puglia after an earthquake in 2002. His teacher and all 27 of his classmates
died when the school collapsed.

and needing a wheelchair, Barbieri’s parents were told swimming would help and
now he’s a top Paralympian, he said. “That suffering, this wheelchair,
have taught me the beauty of little things and remind me each day of how
fortunate I am.”

wouldn’t change almost anything about my life or that tragedy except I wish my
friends were still here. Just that,” he said.

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Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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