CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 September 2017

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Let’s talk about sex young people tell Vatican

VATICAN (CNS): Several young people attending a Vatican-sponsored seminar on the upcoming Synod of Bishops urged the Vatican and the bishops themselves to be opening to listening to young people talk and ask questions about love, sex and sexuality.
 
Twenty people under the age of 35, along with 70 theologians, priests and academics met from September 11 to 15 as part of the preparatory process for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
 
Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, said he wanted to hear from young adults and experts about the challenges young people are facing in the Church and society.
 
The cardinal’s office planned a dozen long, formal talks on subjects including “the search for identity, political commitment, planning for the future, technology and transcendence.
 
Therese Hargot, who describes herself as a philosopher and sexologist, said that a big gap exists between the concerns young people want to talk about and the issues most bishops are comfortable discussing.
 
Hargot, who leads sex education programmes at Catholic schools in Paris, France, told the gathering on September 13, that “it is surprising we are looking at politics, economics, etcetera, but not at sexuality and affectivity, which are very important topics for young people.”
 
She said, “Young people want to talk about sexuality and love.” She added, “They love learning about the theology of the body,” referring to St. John Paul II’s teachings on sex and sexuality.
 
I don’t know why no one here is speaking about love. It is amazing,” Hargot said.
 
Ashleigh Green, an Australian delegate to the seminar, said that going when around Australia in preparation for the synod she found that “a lot of young people feel like they cannot talk about issues that matter to them” in most Church settings.
 
“It is important to open up and talk” about sex, sexuality and sexual orientation, she said. “And it is central to vocation,” which is part of the synod’s focus.
 
Severine Deneulin, an associate professor in international development at England’s University of Bath, said she was finding “it hard to figure out” what the Vatican wanted from the seminar. 
 
“Is it to listen to young people? Does that mean they are willing to change something? Are they willing to change the criteria for ministry?” she asked.
 
“That’s why I have a secular career,” she said. In academia “I am accepted for who I am and for my talents. In the Church, I would not be. If we are worried about leadership in the Church, why do we ignore half the Church (meaning the women). Why aren’t we talking about this?”
 
Natalia Shalata, a young woman from Ukraine who runs a programme supporting orphans and street children, brought a different concern to the seminar. 
 
During the discussion about young people and politics, she told the gathering, “For my generation it is extremely important” to learn how to be effective and to be heard. 
 
“When political leaders don’t live up to their expectations, they (the young) are willing to take extreme action,” including suicide she explained. It is a growing problem in Ukraine, which still is fighting a war in its eastern territories.
 
Shalata, a Ukrainian Catholic married to a priest, said the Church must “go out and hear these strong cries” for help.
 
Cardinal Baldisseri opened the seminar on September 11 explaining that the gathering was one attempt to “frame or photograph the situation of young people, identifying the basic traits that are common for youths today while also paying attention to the plurality” determined by geographical and cultural differences.
 
He said that Pope Francis wants the October 2018 synod to not just be about young people, but with young people, assuring they have a voice.
 
As part of that effort, his office posted a questionnaire online at youth.synod2018.va and is inviting young people from 16 to 29-years-old to respond. “In the roughly three months it has been online, more than 110,000 young people have responded to the questionnaire,” he said. “It’s a significant number considering the absolute novelty of the initiative, and one that is bound to increase in the coming months.”
 
He said the response rate “demonstrates the great desire of young people to have their say.” 

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