Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Working document for the Synod on Youth

Today, there was a Press Conference held at the Vatican Press Centre to present the Working Document outlining the initial working positions for October's global meeting of Catholic bishops on the needs of young people

The document focuses on considering how church leaders can better help the rising generation deal with unique 21st century challenges such as the part-time economy, digital dependency, and even so-called fake news.

The document (known as an Instrumentum Laboris or Working Document, which will guide the opening discussions of the October 3-28 Synod of Bishops in Rome, also takes a notably inclusive tone towards both young Catholics who express disagreement with church teachings and young gay people. Noting that some younger believers disagree with the church on contraception, abortion, or same-sex marriage, for example, it acknowledges that many of them also express the desire to remain part of the Church.

The text of the Instrumentum has been published in Italian.  A working translation in English will follow as soon as it is available.

Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment
Working Document

On 6 October 2016, the Holy Father announced the theme of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: Youth, faith and vocational discernment.

The synodal journey began immediately with the first draft of the Preparatory Document which was published on 13 January 2017 together with a Letter to youth written by the Holy Father.  The Preparatory Document included a questionnaire, which was principally addressed to Episcopal Conferences, the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches and to other ecclesial organizations, with fifteen questions in total: three specifically addressed to each continent and a request to share three best practices.

From 11 to 15 September 2017, an International Seminar was held concerning the conditions of young people, including the presence of many experts and a number of young people, who helped to focus the situation of young people in the world today from the scientific point of view.

Along with these initiatives which were aimed at involving the Church as a whole, there were several opportunities to listen to the voices of young people, for from the very beginning, it has been our intent to make them the protagonists.  First, an online questionnaire was prepared in various languages and translated by some Episcopal Conferences, who gathered responses from more than 100,000 young people.  The material that was gathered was immense.  In addition, a pre-synodal gathering was held in Rome (19-24 March 2018) which concluded on Palm Sunday.  The Holy Father received the final document from that gathering on that day.  Three hundred young people from the five Continents participated in that gathering as well as fifteen thousand young people who participated through social media.  The event, born of the Church's desire to listen to youth with no exclusions, has received noteworthy acceptance.

The material that was gathered from these four main sources - together with some observations which have been added directly by the Secretariat of the Synod - is certainly very vast.  It has been widely analyzed by some experts and finally it has been collected in the present working document which was approved during the XIV Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops which was conducted in the presence of the Holy Father.

The text of the document is in three parts and examines the themes in a functional way with respect to the Synodal assembly which will take place next October, according to the method of discernment: the first part, tied to the verb to recognize, gathers in five chapters which differ according to perspectives, various moments of listening to reality, examining the current state of youth today; the second part, oriented around the verb to interpret, offers in four chapters, some keys to reading the decisive questions presented for the discernment of the Synod; the third part, with the objective of arriving at a choice, in four chapters, gathers various elements to help the Synod Fathers to take positions in respect to the orientations and decisions that must be made.

The text concludes with a significant amount of attention paid to the theme of health, in order that the Synod Assembly may recognize the most beautiful face of the Church (GE, 9) and know how to propose it to the youth of today.

8 May 2018

Leonardo Cardinal Baldisseri
General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops

The goals of the Synod

1.  Caring for young people is not an optional task for the Church, but rather a substantial part of her vocation and her mission in history.  This is the root of the specific context of the upcoming Synod: like the Lord Jesus journeyed alongside the disciples of Emmaus (cf Lk 24:13-35), so the Church is invited to accompany all youth, with no exclusions, toward the joy of love.

With their presence and their words, young people can help the Church to rejuvenate her face.  An ideal thread links the Message to youth from the Second Vatican Council (8 December 1965) and the the Synod for the Youth (3-28 October 2018), which the Holy Father explained in his introduction to the pre-Synodal Meeting: I have in mind the splendid Message to young people from the Second Vatican Council ... It is an invitation to seek new paths and to travel them with audacity and trust, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit in order to rejuvenate the very face of the Church, by accompanying young people in their journey of vocational discernment in this changing era.

The method of discernment

2.  In discernment, we recognize a way of being in the world, a style, a fundamental attitude and at the same time a method of working, a path to be walked together that consists in looking at the social and cultural dynamics in which we are immersed with the view of a disciple.  Discernment leads to recognizing and tuning into the action of the Spirit, in authentic spiritual obedience.  In this way, there is greater openness to novelty, courage to go out, resistance to the temptation to reduce all that is new to something that is already known.  Discernment is an authentically spiritual attitude.  In obedience to the Spirit, discernment is first of all a process of listening, which can also become a propelling motive for our actions, a capacity for creatively trusting in the mission which has always been entrusted to the Church.  Discernment is thus a pastoral instrument, able to identify individual paths which are meant to be proposed to young people today, and to offer orientations and suggestions for the mission that are not pre-packaged, but the result of a journey that permits us to follow the Spirit.  Such a structured path invites us to openness and not to being closed in, to ask questions and to provoke inquiry without suggesting pre-established answers, to envisage alternatives and to dream of opportunities.  In this perspective, it is clear that the Synodal assembly next October needs to be faced with the proper dispositions for a process of discernment.

The structure of the text

3.  The Instrumentum laboris gathers and synthesizes the contributions provided by the pre-Synodal process in a document that is composed in three parts, which specifically recalls the articulation of the process of discernment articulated in Evangelii gaudium, 51: to recognize, to interpret, to choose.  The parts are therefore not independent, but rather they constitute a path.

To recognize.  The first passage is that of looking and listening.  It requires us to pay attention to the realities of young people today, in the diversity of conditions and contexts in which they live.  It requires humility, closeness and empathy, so as to be in tune with them, to perceive their joys and their hopes, their sadnesses and their anxieties (cf Gaudium et spes, 1).  This same looking and this same listening, full of care and concern, should be directed toward those who live in ecclesial communities that are present in the midst of young people throughout the world.  In this first passage, attention is focused on grasping the characteristic traits of reality: the social sciences offer an irreplaceable contribution, however well represented in the sources used, but their contribution is taken up and re-read in the light of the faith and experience of the Church.

To interpret.  The second passage is a return to what has been recognized by using criteria of interpretation and valuation beginning with looking at faith.  The categories of reference must be biblical, anthropological and theological, expressed by the key words of the Synod: youth, vocations, vocational discernment and spiritual accompaniment.  It is therefore strategic to construct an appropriate framework from the theological, ecclesiological, pedagogical and pastoral points of view, whcih can represent an anchor that is capable of subtracting the assessment from the volatility of the impulse, while recognizing that in the Church, there are various legitimate ways to interpret many aspects of the doctrine and the Christian life (Gaudete et exultate, 43).  This is the reason why it is indispensable that we assume an open spiritual dynamism.

To choose.  Only in the light of an accepted vocation is it possible to understand what concrete steps the Spirit calls us to, or in which new directions in order to respond to His call.  In this third phase of discernment it is necessary for us to examine pastoral instruments and practices, and to cultivate the necessary interior freedom in order to choose those who best enable us to reach the goal and abandon those who are revealed to be less able to do so.  It is therefore an operative evaluation and a critical verification, not a judgment on the value or the significance that those same means were able to or may have had in various circumstances and eras.  This passage can identify where reform is necessary, a change in ecclesial or pastoral practices in order to avoid the risk of crystallization.

Part I - To recognize: the Church listening to reality
4.  Reality is more important than the idea (cf Evangelii gaudium, 231-233): in this first Part we are invited to listen and to look to young people in the true conditions in which they find themselves, and the actions of the Church toward them.  It is not a matter of accumulating sociological data and evidence, but of assuming the challenges and the opportunities that emerge in various contexts in the light of faith, allowing them to touch us deeply in order to provide a basis of concreteness for the path that follows (cf Laudato si', 15).  Obvious reasons of space limit the discussion of broad and complex questions to a few hints: the Synod Fathers are called to recognize the appeals of the Spirit.

Chapter 1: Being young today

Chapter 2: Experiences and languages

Chapter 3: In the throw-away culture

Chapter 4: Anthropological and cultural challenges

Chapter 5: Listening to young people

Part II - To interpret: faith and vocational discernment

Chapter 1: The blessing of youth

Chapter 2: A vocation in the light of faith

Chapter 3: The dynamism of vocational discernment

Chapter 4: The art of accompaniment

Part III - To choose: pastoral and missionary journeys and conversions

Chapter 1: An integrated perspective

Chapter 2: Immersed in the fabric of daily life

Chapter 3: An evangelized and evangelizing community

Chapter 4: Animation and organization of the pastoral work

Prayer for the Synod

Lord Jesus,
your Church, on its way toward the Synod
turns her eyes to all the young people of the world.

We pray that with courage,
we may take our lives in hand,
reflecting on the most beautiful and profound things
and always maintain an open heart.

Accompanied by wise and generous leaders,
help them to respond to the call
that you address to each of them,
to achieve their own life plans 
and to achieve happiness.

Keep their hearts open to great dreams
and make them attentive to the good of their brothers and sisters.

Like the beloved Disciple,
may they too stand under the Cross
to welcome your Mother, receiving her as a gift from You.

May they be witnesses to your Resurrection
and be able to recognize your living presence standing beside them
proclaiming joyfully that You are Lord.


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