Monday, March 19, 2018

Pre-synodal Meeting begins in Rome

This morning, at the Maria Mater Ecclesia International Pontifical College, the Plenary Assembly for the pre-synodal Meeting in preparation for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began.  His Holiness, Pope Francis was present for this morning's session.  The pre-synodal Meeting will continue until Saturday, 24 March.

Following words of greeting offered by His Eminence, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, the Pope addressed the assembly.  Then, five young people shared testimonials.

At 11:20am local time (6:20am EDT), the Pope began a dialogue with the young people who were in attendance.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
prior to the Opening Prayer

Now, everyone according to our own faith tradition, in the midst of our own doubts, with everything that we bring in the depths of our souls, think about God, think about God's need, think about the doubts that God has (if God has any of those ...), think about your own conscience and ask for the blessing of goodness on all of us.  Amen.

Greetings offered by His Eminence, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri
Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops

Your Holiness,

Welcoming you here in this hall is the overwhelming enthusiasm of more than three hundred young people who have come from Rome and from all the continents.  More than words, they share their smiles, their songs and their applause.

Each one of them, in a most congenial way, wishes to thank you today.  Thank you for your desire to dedicate the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to Young people, faith and vocational discernment, for placing young people and their plans for life at the centre of the Church's pastoral journey all over the world.

Thank you for your desire that the Synod on the youth should also - in a certain sense - be a Synod for the youth, with the youth and by the youth, in which all young people can play a role as they express what is in their hearts, in the knowledge that - like Ella said during the beautiful Prayer Vigil held at the World Youth Day last year - every young person has something to say to others, something to say to adults, something to say to priests, to sisters, to bishops and to the Pope.

Finally, thank you for your desire to convoke this pre-synodal Meeting as the final stage of the journey of preparation for the Synod, a step that will permit many young people - those who are physically present here in Rome, but also those who are connected through various communication networks - to concretely dialogue, to openly discuss and elaborate upon a document which has been shared in preparation for the Synodal assembly which will be held this coming October.

Along with our thanks, Your Holiness, we wish to offer our most sincere wishes to you today, which is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of your Petrine ministry: an anniversary which we have the great honour of celebrating together with you.  During these five years you have demonstrated on multiple occasions the fact that young people are close to your heart: you have met them here in Rome and in other countries where you have visited during your Apostolic voyages, you have encouraged them not to cut themselves off from the roots that have preceded them, you have invited them to give their own contribution to the renewal of the Church, you have embraced and consoled them in hospitals, in prisons, in refugee camps and in all those places where young people most often must grow up far too quickly.

The young people who are here present offer you, as far as is possible, a cross-section of youth from all corners of the world.  On one hand, these are youth who have been chosen by the Episcopal Conferences and the Synods of the Oriental Catholic Churches; on the other hand, there are young people who have come from Seminaries and Houses of formation for religious life; there are also members of Associations, Movements and new Ecclesial communities; and there are representatives from Catholic Schools and Universities.  Young people from the world of the arts (music, dance, literature and theatre) have also been invited, as have others who are professionals (journalists, researchers, informatics), from the worlds of politics, economics, military service, sports, and from the world of solidarity (volunteers, the disabled, human trafficking, poverty etc).  Finally, there are some young people represented here from other Christian confessions, from other religions and some non-believers.

During this coming week, along with the young people, there will also be some experts present (those who work with youth), some faculty members who will moderate the work within the linguistic groups, and some who have experience with the world-wide web, who will coordinate the participation from distance of youth who have registered through various social networks.  In this last regard, it is certainly a sign of the times that young people from all corners of the world can participate in this event - through the Web - sending their contributions and therefore also making their own voices heard.

Holy Father, you yourself defined the scope of this pre-synodal meeting, at the moment when you called for this gathering: With this journey - you affirmed at the conclusion of the General Audience on 4 October 2017 - the Church wishes to listen to the voices, the sensitivities, the faith and also the doubts and criticisms of youth - we need to listen to young people.  For this reason, the conclusion of the Meetings in March will be passed on to the Synodal Fathers.  The key word of the synodal journey is therefore the word listen.  Young people are both the objects and subjects of the synodal journey, called to listen to their Pastors, but also called to speak to their Pastors, to open their hearts to them, in a continual circling that is the essence itself of synodality in the Church.

For this reason, next Sunday, at the conclusion of the Eucharist which will begin the rites of Holy Week and will celebrate the XXXIII World Youth Day, we will have the joy and the honour of placing into your hands the document that will result from the pre-synodal Meeting, during which the youth will entrust the desires and hopes of their peers to all the world in preparation for the Synod which will be held next October.  Thank you!

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to the Plenary Assembly

Dear young people, good morning!

I greet all 15340!  We hope that tomorrow there will be more of you involved in our conversation, in which we will bring out what each of you and each of us has in our hearts.  Speak courageously.  Don't be ashamed, no.  In this place, we need to leave all our shame outside the door.  Speak with courage: whatever you feel, say it and if someone feels offended, ask for forgiveness, then go on.  You know how to speak in this way.  But you must listen with humility.  If you say something that doesn't please me, I need to listen, because everyone has a right to be heard, just as everyone has a right to speak.

Thank you for having accepted the invitation to come here.  Some of you had to travel long distances.  Others, instead of going to sleep - because it is now the time that you would normally be going to sleep - are connected with us by means of social media.  They will spend their nights listening.  You come from many parts of the world and you bring with you a great variety of peoples, cultures and even religions: you are not all Catholics or even Christians; you are not even all believers, but you are certainly all lively and you want to give the best of yourselves.  And I have no doubt about this.  I also greet those who will connect with us, and those who have already done so: thank you for your contributions!

In a special way, I want to thank the Secretariat of the Synod, the Cardinal Secretary, the Archbishop Secretary and all those who are working in the Secretariat of the Synod.  They have worked hard for this and they have a way of inventing things and a great capacity for creativity.  Thank you very much, Cardinal Baldisseri, and all of your collaborators.

You have been invited because your contributions are essential.  We need you to prepare the Synod which will gather the Bishops this coming autumn around the theme of Youth, faith and vocational discernment.  In many moments throughout the history of the Church, just as in numerous biblical stories, God has wished to speak through the young: I think for example of Samuel, David and Daniel.  I like very much the story of Samuel, when he heard the voice of God.  The bible says: At that time, they were not used to hearing the voice of God.  They were a disoriented people.  It took a young person to open that door.  In difficult moments, the Lord helps us to progress with the help of young people.  They tell the truth, they are not ashamed.  I am not saying that they are ashamed; I am saying that they are not ashamed and that they tell the truth.  Even in his youth, David courageously began.  Even with his sins.  It is interesting, all of them were not born saints, they were not born just, models for others.  They were all men and women, sinners, but they had felt the desire to do something good.  God inspired them and they went ahead.  This is beautiful.  We cannot think: These things are only for just people, for priests and for sisters.  No, these are for everyone.  Even more so, they are for you young people, because you have the strength to say things, to feel things, to laugh, and even to cry.  Many many times, we adults have forgotten our ability to cry, we have become accustomed to it: The world is like that ... we are getting along.  And we keep going.  For this reason, I encourage you, please: be courageous during these days, say everything that you are thinking about; make mistakes, someone will correct you.  But keep going, have courage!

1.  Too often there is talk about young people but we do not let them challenge us.  When someone wants to mount a campaign or something, ah, praise the young people!  Is that not the case?  But we do not allow young people to challenge us.  Praise is one way to make people happy.  But people are not silly or stupid.  No, they are not.  People understand.  Only idiots do not understand.  In Spanish, there is a beautiful saying that says: Praise the stupid and we will see them work.  Give him a pat on the shoulder and he will be happy, because he is stupid, he will not notice.  But you are not stupid!  Even the best analyses about the world of youth, while useful - and they are useful - are no substitute for the need to meet face to face.  Speak about youth today.  Out of curiosity, seek them out in articles, find conferences where youth are invited to speak today.  I want to tell you something: youth don't exist!  Young people exist, they have faces, they have looks, they have illusions.  Young people exist.  Talking about youth is easy.  Do they make up abstractions, percentages? ... No.  Your face, your heart, what do you say?  Questioning, listening to young people.  Sometimes, evidently, you don't exist; young people don't win Nobel Prizes for prudence.  No.  Sometimes they speak as if to slap.  Life is like that, but we need to listen to them.

Some may think that it would be better to keep a safe distance, so as not to provoke you.  But it is not enough just to exchange some text messages or just to share some nice pictures.  ... Young people need to be taken seriously!  It seems to me that we are surrounded by a culture that, on one hand, idolizes youth and tries never to allow it to pass away, and on the other hand, many young people are excluded from the possibility of becoming heroes. This is a kind of makeup philosophy.  People grow up and then try to put on makeup in order to look younger, but young people are never allowed to grow up.  This is very common.  Why?  Because we don't allow them to ask questions.  This is important.  Often times, you are marginalized from ordinary society and you find yourselves begging for occupations that will not guarantee your tomorrow.  I don't know if this happens in all your countries, but it does happen in many ... If I am not wrong, the rate of youth unemployment here in Italy, for those who are 25 years or older is 35%.  In another country in Europe which borders on Italy, the rate is 47%.  In another European country which is close to Italy, the rate is more than 50%.  What happens to a young person if he or she cannot find work?  He gets sick - falls into a depression - becomes dependent, kills himself - it makes you think: the statistics about youth suicide are all rigged, all of them - be rebels - but this is one way of committing suicide - or they take a plane and fly to a city which I will not name and enlist in ISIS or in one of the other guerrilla movements.  At least these youth feel as though they would have a sense of living and that they would have a monthly salary.  And this is a social sin!  Society is responsible for this.  But I would like you to give us the causes, the reasons; don't just say I don't know why?  How do you experience this drama?  This would help us a lot.  Too often, you are left all alone.  But the truth is that you are builders of culture, with your style and your originality.  This may seem to be relatively far off, because you are capable of building a culture that sometimes is unseen, but keep going.  This is a place where we want to listen to your culture, to hear about what you are building.

In the Church - I am convinced - but it shouldn't b this way: people close doors, they don't listen.  The gospel asks us: it's message of closeness invites us to meet one another to speak with one another, to welcome one another and to seriously love one another, to journey together without fear.  This pre-synodal Meeting seeks to be a sign of something great: the will of the Church to listen to all young people, no one is excluded.  This is not a matter of politics.  It is not an artificial youth line, no, but so that we can better understand what God and history are asking of us.  If we ignore you, we will be missing out on access to God.

2.  In particular, the next Synod proposes to develop conditions so that young people can be accompanied with passion and competence in vocational discernment, which is to say recognizing and listening to the call of love and to the fullness of life (Preparatory document, Introduction).  We all have this call.  In your initial phase, you are young.  This is a basic certainty: God loves each one of us and he personally calls every one of us.  This is a gift that fills us with joy when we discover it (cf Mt 13:44-46).  Be sure of this: God trusts in you, he loves you and he is calling you. And you can be sure that he will not fail because he is faithful and truly believes in you.  God is faithful.  For believers, I say: God is faithful.  He asks you the same question he asked of the first disciples: Who are you looking for? (Jn 1:38).  I too, at this moment, ask each one of you: What are you looking for?  You, what are you looking for in your life?  Speak, it will do us good to listen.  Speak.  We need this: to listen to your journey through life.  What are you looking for?  I invite you to share your search for life with Him, to journey with us.  And we, we want to do the same, for we cannot neglect opportunities to enthusiastically share the details of our search for each person's true joy; and we cannot keep for ourselves the One who has changed our lives: Jesus.  Your fellow citizens and your friends, even if they do not know it, are waiting to hear a call to salvation.

3.  The next Synod will also be a call addressed to the entire Church, that she may rediscover a renewed dynamism among her youth.  I have read some emails received in response to the questionnaire which was put online by the Secretariat of the Synod and I was struck by the call issued by several young people, who asked the adults to be close to them and to help them make important choices.  One young woman observed that young people are lacking points of reference and that no one encourages them to take advantage of the resources they have.  Then, besides the positive aspects about the world of youth, she pointed out the dangers, among which are alcohol, drugs and sexuality experienced in a consumeristic way.  These are dependencies, no?  And she concluded - almost with a sigh: Help our world of youth that is almost falling apart.  I don't know if the world of youth will continue to fall apart, I don't know.  But I feel like the sigh of this young woman is sincere and requires attention.  It's up to you to respond to this girl, to speak with this girl.  She is one of you and she needs you to see this slap that she is giving us, where it will lead.  Also in the Church, we need to learn new ways of being present and of being close to you.  This is very important.  I remember when Moses wanted to tell the People of God about the essentials of God's love.  He said: Think: what people have ever had a God as close as ours?  Love is closeness.  And they, the young people of today are asking the Church to be close.  You Christians, you who believe in the closeness of Christ, you Catholics, be close, not far away.  And you know very well that there are many, many ways to distance yourselves, many.  Teach everyone, with white gloves, but keep your distance so that you won't dirty your hands.  Young people today, are asking us to be close: Catholics, Christians, believers and non-believers alike.  Close to everyone.  And in this regard, a young man enthusiastically spoke about his participation in some encounters with these words.  He said: The most important thing was the presence of religious men and women among us young people as friends who listened to us, who we knew and who counselled us.  Consecrated men and women who are close.  They listen, they know and we can ask their advice, and they advise us.  I know a few of you who do just that.

The splendid message to youth offered by the Second Vatican Council comes to mind.  Even today it is an incentive to fight against all forms of egoism and to courageously build a better world.  It is an invitation to seek out new paths and to walk them boldly and trustingly, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit, in order to reinvigorate the very face of the Church. It is in Jesus and in the Spirit that the Church always finds the strength to reinvigorate herself, reviewing her life concerning her way of being, asking pardon for her fragility and inadequacy, not sparing any energies in order to place herself at the service of all people, solely with the intention of being faithful to the mission that the Lord has entrusted to her: to live and to proclaim the gospel.

4.  Dear young people, the heart of the Church is young precisely because the gospel is like life blood that constantly regenerates her.  It is up to us to be docile and to cooperate with this fruitfulness.  And all of you can collaborate with this fruitfulness: whether you are Catholic Christians or from other religious backgrounds, or non-believing.  We are asking you to collaborate with with our fruitfulness, in order to give life.  We can do this also along the synodal path, thinking about the realities that young people all over the world face today.  We need to regain the enthusiasm of faith and the taste for research.  We need to rediscover in the Lord the strength to recover from our failures, to keep going, to strengthen our trust in the future. And we need to dare to feel renewed.  Do not be frightened: dare to take new paths, even if this should cause you to take risks.  A man, a woman who takes no risks, will never mature.  An institution that chooses not to take risks will always remain a child, it will never grow.  Take risks, accompanied by prudence, advice, but keep going.  If there are no risks, do you know what happens within a young person?  He grows old!  He retires at the age of 20!  An aged young person and even an aged Church.  I say this with sadness.  How often I have found Christian communities, even communities of young people, who are old.  They have grown old because they were afraid.  Fear of what?  Of going out, of going out toward the existential peripheries of life, fear of going to the places where the future is in question.  Prudence is one thing, this is a virtue, but fear is another.  We need you young people, living stones of te Church with a youthful face, but not made up faces, as I have said: not artificially rejuvenated, but revived from within.  And you provoke us to get out of the logic of it has always been done this way.  Please, such logic is poison.  It is a sweet poison, because it tranquilizes the soul and leaves us anesthetized so that we can no longer go on.  Come out of the logic of it has always been done this way in order to stay creatively in the wake of authentic but creative Christian tradition.  I recommend that all Christians should read the Acts of the Apostles: the creativity of those men.  Those men knew how to go on with their creativity, and if we were to translate their experience into what it means for today, it would scare us.  You can create a new culture, but be careful: this culture cannot be eradicated.  One step ahead, but look to your roots!  Don't neglect your roots, because you will end up underground: take a step forward, but always keep your roots.  And your roots - please excuse me, this is something very close to my heart - are the elderly, the good elderly people.  Your grandmothers are your roots.  Your roots are those who have lived life and who this culture that discards everything thinks are no longer useful so it throws them out.  The elderly have a charism of carrying roots.  Talk to the elderly.  But what should I say?  Try!  I remember in Buenos Aires, once, I was speaking with young people and I said: Why not go into a senior's residence to play a guitar for the elderly who are there? - But Father ... - Go, just for an hour.  He stayed for more than two hours!  He didn't want to leave, because the elderly were so (they were a bit sleepy), they heard the guitar and they woke up, they woke up and they began to speak, and the young people felt something that touched their hearts.  They took hold of this wisdom and kept going.  This is something that the Prophet Joel says very well, very well.  In the third chapter.  For me, this is today's prophecy: The elderly will dream dreams, and the young will prophecy.  There is no need for young prophets, but be careful: there would never have been prophets if they didn't pay attention to the dreams of the elderly.  What's more, if we don't help the elderly to dream, they will be bored, because no one will listen to them.  Help the elderly to dream and these dreams will help you to keep going forward.  Joel 3:1.  Read it, it will be good for you.  Let yourselves be challenged by these words.

Staying in tune with the frequencies of younger generations is a great help to promoting dialogue.  Therefore, I invite you during this week to try to be honest and in full freedom, I have said it and I will repeat it.  With a serious face.  You are the protagonists and it is important that you speak openly.  But i am ashamed, the Cardinal will hear me ... Let him listen, he is used to it.  I assure you that your contribution will be taken seriously.  Already now, I want to thank you, and I ask you, please, don't forget to pray for me.  And those who cannot pray, because you don't know how to pray, at least wish me well.  Thank you.

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