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Synod not just about Catholic voices

HONG KONG (SE): In preparation for the Synod on Family Life that met in two sessions in 2015 and 2016 an attempt was made for the first time to carry out an extensive canvassing of opinion from Catholic people more or less the world over.

Although notice was short for a diocese to make a comprehensive response within the limited time frame allowed, some extremely useful and well put together reports were received in time to be included in the preparation papers for the synod fathers.

The next synod is to meet around the theme of young people in October next year, just two years after World Youth Day in Krakow and around one year prior to the next one in Panama in 2019.

Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants a far greater input from young people and they are to play a key role in the preparation of the agenda.

He also wants the consultation to be wider than Catholic youth, as the synod is to be on the young people of the world, not just Catholic young people, and the role of the Church in the world in the service of young people.

The synod secretary general, Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, points out that this means all young people, Catholic and Christian, from all faiths and religions, believers and non-believers alike.

“We’ll lose a precious opportunity if we limit ourselves to only those young people who are actively involved in the life of the Church or its initiatives,” the cardinal stated on January 13.

“The idea is to reach all young people, or at least the greatest number possible,” he continued.

His deputy, Bishop Fabio Fabene, explained that prior to the synod in 2018, the secretariat will hold a symposium in Rome as part of the preparation at which young people from throughout the world will be given a high profile.

“This is a way to carry out the authentic synodality the pope wants. The synod is not reduced to something just for the bishops, but in different ways involves the entire people of God,” Bishop Fabene pointed out.

He also stressed that bishops’ conferences will have much more freedom in carrying out pre-synod consultations and actually any group or individual can make a suggestion.

However, the bishop also revealed that the secretariat would make out its own online consultation form for young people to use and that it would be ready for use on March 1, but Robert Mickens, from the National Catholic Reporter, reported in April this year that it is still nowhere to be seen.

While the reasons for the delay are not clear, Mickens says that some in the Vatican are not happy about this move of Pope Francis and are protesting against it.

He reported that they believe that it can open up a can of worms, as did the one on family life, and are even more displeased about non-Catholics and atheists having the opportunity to take part in the opinion gathering.

However, Ashleigh Green, the delegate from Australia to the From Krakow to Panama: The synod journeying with young people gathering in Rome in early April, told the 270 delegates from 103 countries that our Church needs to create new and welcoming spaces where the young can come and meet.

She said that she came away from the gathering enthused, as she met so many young people with big dreams for their Church and simply craving the opportunity to be heard.

Green said that as a social worker professionally, she can see the need for the Church to engage with the most marginalised of young Australians.

She stressed that the name of the game is to meet people where they are at, not particularly where the Church thinks that they should be at.

Green commented on her diocesan website in Broken Bay in Sydney’s northern suburbs that she found the gathering energising and that she and the other young people present went away with the feeling that they really had been listened to.

The synod will run under the theme of Youth, faith and vocational discernment and at the release of the preparatory document in January it was explained that Pope Francis wants to provide a three-dimensional motivation for the meeting on young people ranging in age from 16 to 29.

A university student, Elvis Do Ceu, from Cabo Verde, said at the presentation that he believes that the bishops of the world will listen to young voices, even to those who live the farthest from the ecclesiastical world, as they too desire attention and meaningful answers to many questions.

“We are sure that they will be able to waste time with us, the young, not only to speak, but also to listen to what we have to say, with the aim of constructing together a younger, fresher Church open to comparison and encounter,” Do Ceu concluded.

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