The pre-synodal meeting was held so that young people could communicate their views on things, as well as their thoughts and feelings, and their recommendations on certain matters. Their input was consolidated in a pre-synodal document which will be presented to the Synodal Fathers.

Young People in the World Today

The Church and the young people in dialogue
The Church and the young people in dialogue

In the document, the youth began talking about themselves openly and honestly. Since they recognized that the family plays a big part in developing their personality, the document specifically called on the Church to “support families and their formation.” They acknowledged how friends, educators, membership in specific groups, experiences within the Church and the like, also contribute to the formation of their personality. Then they identified ‘crucial moments’ for the development of their identity which includes making decisions about their course of study, their profession, and their beliefs. Discovering their sexuality and making life-changing commitments were also included.

They also shared their views of the world. According to them, “Many young people are used to seeing diversity as richness and finding opportunities in the pluralistic world. Multiculturalism has the potential to facilitate an environment for dialogue and tolerance. We value the diversity of ideas in our globalized world, the respect for other people’s thoughts and freedom of expression… We should not fear our diversity, but celebrate our differences and what makes each one of us unique.”

Having said this, young people called on the Church “to not only model, but also elaborate on already existing theological guidelines for peaceful, constructive dialogue with people of other faiths and traditions.”

In looking to the future, young people confided their dreams for ‘safety, stability, and fulfillment’ while also tackling the difficulties they experience and see in fellow youths. “Some practical concerns make our lives difficult,” they said, explaining that obtaining a secure future is a challenge.

“In some parts of the world, the only way to have a secure future is to receive higher education or to work excessively” while some youths are forced to go far away from home for a better life. “Sometimes,” they shared, “we end up discarding our dreams. We are too scared, and some of us have stopped dreaming. This is seen in the many socio-economic pressures that can severely drain the sense of hope among young people. At times, we have not even had the opportunity to keep on dreaming.” Because of this, they “seek to engage with and address the social justice issues of our time…We want a world of peace, one that harmonizes integral ecology with a sustainable global economy.”

They continued by speaking about what is now ‘a permanent part’ of their lives – technology. Explaining that “when referring to technology, one must understand the duality of its application,” they elaborated on the positive contributions it has offered society such as connecting people more, and its negative effects, such as addiction or becoming a substitute for human relationships. While enumerating the benefits and risks of its use, young people themselves affirmed, “It is necessary to offer formation to young people on how to live their digital lives.” Two proposals were put forth. First, they called on the Church to deepen her understanding of technology, so she can assist young people in discerning its right use. They even encouraged the Church to view the Internet as ‘a fertile place for the New Evangelization.’ Second, “the Church should address the widespread crisis of pornography, including online child abuse, as well as cyber-bullying.”

Young People and the Church

From left: Cardinal Tagle, Gio Francsico, (a Focolare youth and author of this article), and Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, at the Genfest in Manila
From left: Cardinal Tagle, Gio Francsico, (a Focolare youth and author of this article), and Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, at the Genfest in Manila

In the document, young people expressed their views and hopes for the Church confidently. At one point they commented, “The Church oftentimes appears too severe and is often associated with excessive moralism… We need a Church that is welcoming and merciful… which loves everyone, even those who are not following the perceived standards.” Some shared the view that the Church is irrelevant, while others admitted that they view religious leaders as “more focused on administration, rather than community-building.” Thus, they expressed their desire “to see a Church that is a living testimony to what it teaches, and one that witnesses to authenticity on the path to holiness, which includes acknowledging mistakes and asking forgiveness.” In addition, they hope that the best examples of this would be the leaders of the Church because for them “knowing that models of faith are authentic and vulnerable, allows young people to freely be authentic and vulnerable themselves.”

They did mention the disagreements among young people on some Church teachings regarding homosexuality, cohabitation, marriage, contraception, etc. As a result, some “may want the Church to change her teachings or at least, they desire to have access to a better explanation and more formation on these questions.” “Even though there is internal debate, young Catholics whose convictions are in conflict with official teaching still want to be part of the Church,” they said. Furthermore, some young people affirm that the Church should hold fast to her teachings and convictions, and “proclaim them with greater depth.”

Young people called on the Church “to not only model, but also elaborate on already existing theological guidelines for peaceful, constructive dialogue with people of other faiths and traditions.
Young people called on the Church “to not only model, but also elaborate on already existing theological guidelines for peaceful, constructive dialogue with people of other faiths and traditions.

They described their “difficulty in finding room in the Church where they can actively participate and lead” because at times, they are considered ‘too young’ and ‘inexperienced’ to take on leadership roles or to make decisions.

They pointed out how the Church “must involve young people in its decision-making processes and offer them more leadership roles… on a parish, diocesan, national and international level, and even in a commission to the Vatican.” “There is a need for trust in young people,” they emphasized. They also called on the Church to “clearly state the role of women” in the Church and help young people to “explore and understand it more clearly.”

The Church must “try to find creative new ways to encounter people where they are comfortable and where they naturally socialize: in bars and coffee shops, in parks, gyms and stadiums, and in other popular cultural centers.” Besides these venues, young people invited the Church to have a visible presence online. “We would like to see a Church accessible through social media as well as other digital spaces, to more easily and effectively offer information about the Church and its teachings, and to further the formation of the young person,” they said. Mention was made of initiatives and events to be reinforced such as the World Youth Day, youth catechisms, Christian sports leagues, parish or diocesan youth groups, different faith apps, and the immense variety of movements and associations within the Church. They elaborated on instruments the Church can use to engage with young people, some of which include the Internet, personal stories from the Church as testimonies, and the arts.

A wonderful initiative

In his letter to the young people, Pope Francis told them, “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. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensibilities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism.” In calling for a pre-synodal meeting and letting young people work on a pre-synodal document, the Church has taken a wonderful initiative to listen to the subject of their next Synod, the young people themselves. Through this initiative, the Church has shown that it is willing to listen to the voice of young people, for they are not left behind or forgotten.

Giancarlo “Gio” Francisco

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