Upcoming synod needs young people's voices, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked young people to tell him, their bishops and
pastors about their hopes and struggles and even their criticisms.

preparation for a meeting of the Synod of Bishops focused on youth, the pope
wrote a letter to young people, saying the church wants “to listen to your
voice, your sensitivities and your faith, even your doubts and your criticism.”

your voice heard,” the pope told young people. “Let it resonate in
communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”

pope’s letter was released Jan. 13 along with the preparatory document for the
synod. The document includes a series of questions to be answered by national
conferences of bishops and other church bodies. The responses, along with input
from young people themselves, will form the basis of the synod’s working

Francis chose “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” as the
theme for the synod gathering, which will be held in October 2018.

people will have an opportunity to contribute to the working document by
submitting reflections “on their expectations and their lives”
through a dedicated website — www.sinodogiovani.va — that will be launched
the first week of May, said Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of

his letter, Pope Francis referred to God’s call to Abraham. The Old Testament patriarch,
he said, “received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave
everything and go to a new land. What is this ‘new land’ for us today, if not a
more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish
to build to the very ends of the earth?”

better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to
change and your generosity,” Pope Francis told young people. “Do not
be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when
your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master.”

synod preparatory document offered three chapters for reflection by bishops and
youths, which it defines as people roughly between the ages of 16 and 29: young
people in today’s world; faith, discernment and vocation; and pastoral

the synod, the document said, “the church has decided to examine herself
on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the
fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying
the most effective ways to announce the Good News today.”

church, it said, needs to evaluate its pastoral approach to young people living
in a rapidly-changing world where globalization, technological dominance, as
well as economic and social hardships pose significant challenges to
discovering their vocational path.

the vantage point of faith, the situation is seen as a sign of our times,
requiring greater listening, respect and dialogue,” the document said.

special focus of the synod, it said, will be “on vocational discernment,
that is, the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue
with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the
choice of one’s state in life.”

for Christians, it said, the question is: “How does a person live the good
news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all
those he encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the
consecrated life?”

One of the major challenges for
young people in defining their personal identity and finding their path in life
is the countless options available — particularly when it comes to their
careers — that may impede them from making a definitive life choice.

Many young people today, it said,
“refuse to continue on a personal journey of life if it means giving up
taking different paths in the future: ‘Today I choose this, tomorrow we’ll

Lack of employment and social and
economic hardships, it added, also contribute to “their inability to
continue in one career. Generally speaking, these obstacles are even more
difficult for young women to overcome, it added.

Gender inequality and
discrimination against ethnic or religious minorities, which can force people to
emigrate, are other detrimental factors that the church is called to address to
help young people become “agents of change.”

“If society or the Christian
community wants to make something new happen again, they have to leave room for
new people to take action,” the document said.

By accompanying young people in
their personal discernment, it said, “the church accepts her call to
collaborate in the joy of young people rather than be tempted to take control
of their faith.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general
secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists Jan. 13 that the presence
of young men and women at the synod will help bishops understand how best to
accompany youths who are searching for their vocation and path in life.  

As auditors, young people
“will not only be able to take part in the meetings of the general
assembly, but also the small working groups,” he said.

Federica Ceci and Elvis Do Ceu,
young members of Rome’s St. Thomas More parish, joined the cardinal for the
news conference and expressed their gratitude for Pope Francis’ attention to
the realities facing today’s young people.

Ceci, a 24-year-old law student,
said the synod was a call for young people to “get their hands dirty.”

Do Ceu told reporters, “Pope
Francis, in a certain way, helps us understand that that the only way forward
is to offer a future — as well as a present — by engaging young people and
giving them a leading role.”

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Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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The complete text of the synod preparatory document in English can be found at:

complete text in Spanish can be found at: https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2017/01/13/0021/00050.html#SPA

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