« I invite you then, during this week, to express yourself with all frankness and in complete freedom, I said and I repeat. With “a bold face”. You are the protagonists and it is important that you speak openly. “But I am shamed, the cardinal will hear me…”. He will listen, he is accustomed. I assure you that your contribution will be taken seriously. Right from now I say thank you».
With this invitation Pope Francis opened the pre-synodal meeting “We talk together” held in Rome from the 19th to the 24th March 2018. This pre-synodal meeting was strongly desired by Pope Francis in view of the Bishops’ Synod “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” to be held next October. There were 300 young people coming from all over the world and representing catholic and non-catholic associations and movements as well as representatives from university, school, work, military and sports spheres. In addition to this, young people of other religions, atheists or non believers have already had the opportunity to give their views through the social network, together with about 15,000 young people,thus contributing towards this important moment of encounter.
The aim of the meeting was to listen to what we, young people, have to say to the Church and to draw up a document which will be part of the material which will help the synod fathers during the Synod in October.
It was a week full of confrontation, reflections, discussions and sharing of various religious and cultural experiences; a week in which the art of listening and the ability to synthetise were essential in order to succeed in drawing up a final document which could be acceptable to all.
The task involved intensive work starting from the preparatory document, which was divided into three parts and with questions which provoked dialogue and discussion in the linguistic groups.
The first part was devoted to the study of the real situation in which we, young people, live today: an introductory part, which was thus not dedicated to statistics and numbers but to an actual reading of the situation.This was prepared by us, young people, who are directly affected by the situations which we face today. Together, we carefully analysed the challenges and opportunities which we are experiencing.
The second part focused on the major themes of the Synod, i.e. faith, vocations, discernment and accompaniment: themes which lead us to see the way in which young people look upon Jesus, the relation between faith and the Church, the sense of living, vocational discernment, young people and the figure of those who accompany them.
Finally, the third part was dedicated to the educational and pastoral ministry of the Church and up to what extent, in these spheres, we, young people, feel co-responsible and protagonists.
The 26 synthesis produced by the linguistic groups were then processed by an editorial committee which had the difficult task of putting eveything together and of drawing up a document. Before the final version of the document, approved during the assembly on Saturday morning, the Commission had proposed two drafts. From one proposed version to the other, the document was improved also thanks to the many amendments proposed by the participants. This was a clear sign of the prevailing attention and interest in wanting to draw up a document which could possibly be acceptable to all and which could express the feelings of the diverse components of the assembly.
The final part of the document gives a picture of the way we, young people, live today; our relations with others; how we perceive the future and the way we are preparing to live it; technology in our lives, understood not only as a mere instrument but how it effects the place we live in.
The second part is an expression of the way we live our faith and the Church; the importance of enhancing the vocation of each individual so as not to reduce it solely to the fostering of a priestly vocation; the idea of looking upon the experience of vocational discernment as a challenge, where different elements, such as the individual personality, the different experiences, the cultural differences, the family, work and the political scenarios converge. This experience calls for the need to have someone to accompany us and the importance attached to this person who should be a companion who leads by example, humble, definitely not perfect, but who, through his way of living, can give testimony of life’s difficulties and joys.
The document closes with a desire for an authentic Church, which knows how to be a transparent Community, welcoming, honest joyful and interactive; a credible Church which is not afraid to show that it is vulnerable and is ready to admit its mistakes and consequently commits itself to deal with them; a Church in which we, young people, can feel that we are protagonists, where we can assume responsibilities and, together with it, can be fully responsible.
Major themes have come up, such as a stronger feminine presence and role in the Church and a new approach to the theme of sexuality.
It is a document which, after all, is truly the synthesis of the thoughts of all the young people present who were the spokesman of so many other young people of their age and whom they have had the honour and the responsibility to represent.
This meeting has given us the opportunity to go through an experience of communitarian discernment, to make the effort of putting our own faith, culture and experience aside for a while so as to be able to accept the faith, culture and experience of others and to be, as far as possible, outgoing young people who can look around at 360° and not only partially. During this week we have lived through an experience of synodality, of journeying together with a single objective: that of being listeners, of asserting our protagonism and of wanting to participate and to contribute towards this great change of direction which the Church is trying to find and to undertake.
The pre-synod does not end with the presentation of the final document but continues on our return home As we resume our life and our commitments,we should try to be true witnesses to our peers and to influence them to adopt the style of synodality and discernment which we have experienced: a style which we should adopt in every sphere of our lives.
In Saint Peter’s Square, on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis told us that we should shout: let us welcome his provocation and begin to shout from every corner of the earth.
*Italian Catholic Action Youth Sector Vicepresident and Responsible for Youth Coordination in the Catholic Action International Forum.
- The face of a young Church
by *Luisa Alfarano*