CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Youth Synod survey a fizz

VATICAN (SE): At the beginning of this year, the Vatican announced that it was posting a survey online for the use of young people from the ages of 16 to 29 as part of the preparation for the Bishops’ Synod on Youth that is scheduled to be held in Rome during October next year.
However, as due dates came and went, there was still no sign of the survey on the Internet. Eventually, it did show its head on June 14, but whatever initial enthusiasm had been shown for it seemed to have evaporated by then and it is now being judged as a fizzer.
The synod is to run under the theme of Young People, faith and vocational discernment.
While bishops’ conferences had been asked to post a survey prior to the previous Synod on the Family, some did and some did not.
The sample that came from the Vatican was judged too esoteric for public use by many dioceses, with some putting up rehashed, simplified versions to collect data for the reports they were required to write and submit to the synod preparation committee.
However, for those who simply uploaded it as was, the people made the judgement, with many complaining that they could not understand the language or conceptual images the survey was couched in.
But the one for the Youth Synod is a first, as it was posted directly by the Vatican and the responses went directly back to the preparation committee in Rome.
In addition, the anticipated audience was not just Catholics. Pope Francis is on record as saying that he hoped young people of all faiths and none would respond.
However, one month after the time period expired, the secretary-general of the synod, Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, has revealed that while a total of 148,247 people visited the survey site, considerably less than half of this number—just over 65,000—actually responded to all the questions.
However, some 3,000 respondents did leave their email addresses and said they wished to be kept informed of the outcome of the survey.
La Croix comments that the number of respondents is deemed to be low for a worldwide survey, particularly if looked at in the context of the last World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, which was attended by 2.5 million young Catholic people in 2016.
But commentators say there were a lot of things wrong with the survey, which almost doomed it before it began. Language barrier was a problem. Many languages, including German, simply did not appear, leaving bishops’ conferences scrambling to make their own.
Cardinal Baldisseri also presented a summary of the comments that those who did respond to the survey made, citing several testimonies from France expressing satisfaction with the way the survey was carried out.
After beginning with the positive, he then confessed there was a lot of criticism as well. Some respondents thought the questionnaire was too long, while others complained that a number of important issues were hardly addressed or were simply not mentioned.
Problems linked with alcohol, drug and overdosing on traditional medicine, as well as sexuality and relationship issues, and even links with other religions are all—in the opinion of many—way underrepresented.
Young people who attended a September seminar the Vatican held in preparation for the synod had already expressed some of these same concerns.
Nevertheless, La Croix reported that Cardinal Baldisseri insisted that the contribution of young people “is essential for the conclusions to correspond to the reality of the Church and society.”
He warned that otherwise the synod would only be building sand castles in the air that will remain uninhabited, because young people will neither look for nor find them.
The questionnaire has been put back online and will remain until November 30.

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