Youth tack on notes and ideas to a world map while putting together the pre-Synod meeting document for Pope Francis Mar. 22, 2018. Photo courtesy of Dicastery from Laity, Family and Life

World’s youth lay out hopes at pre-synod meeting 

  • March 27, 2018

Young people are ready and willing to be leaders in the Church, said youth delegates at an unprecedented pre-synodal meeting of young people in Rome. 

Representing more than 130 countries, 305 delegates met with Church leaders, including Pope Francis, March 19-24 to examine and discuss how the Church interacts with young people in modern society. 

“We strongly feel that we are ready to be leaders, who can grow and be taught by the older members of the Church, by religious and lay women and men,” the delegates said in a closing document published March 24. “We need young leadership programs for the formation and continued development of young leaders.” 

Most delegates, including two from Canada, were chosen by their national bishops’ conferences. The delegates also included non-Catholic Christians, other religions and nonbelievers.

One of the Canadians, Emilie Callan, 28, said that the most inspiring aspect of the experience was the unity and teamwork during the process.

“This was definitely an experience of the Church,” Callan said. “The biggest challenge for us is the amount of time to put this (draft) together and also because we desire so much in our group to bring justice to what we were reading in all the documents.”

youth emelieEmelie Callan speaks during a discussion at the pre-Synod meeting. (Photo courtesy of Dicastery from Laity, Family and Life)

youth jacobJacob Jason Genaille-Dustyhorn (middle) reads a rough document created by the 305 youth at the pre-Synod meeting. (Photo courtesy of Dicastery from Laity, Family and Life)

In addition to the delegates present during the week at the Pontifical International Collegei Maria Mater Ecclesiae, about 15,000 young people participated online

Pope Francis opened the week-long meeting by saying that everyone must “keep an eye on the roots” of the Church and preserve its essential teachings, but said young people must find creative ways to share those teachings and reflect on how the Gospel responds to people’s questions today. He urged the delegates to help the Church fight “the logic” of saying “it’s always been done this way.” That type of thinking, he said  is “a poison, a sweet poison that tranquilizes the heart and leaves you anesthetized so you can’t walk.”

The final document addressed the youth’s desire for the Church to “hold fast” to its teachings on controversial matters like “contraception, abortion, same-sex relationships, cohabitation, marriage, and how the priesthood is perceived in different realities in the Church.” 

Young people are weary of the advancements in technology. Digital spaces can become fertile environments for the New Evangelisation, the document said, but can also leave young people vulnerable to “the widespread crisis of pornography,” online child abuse, and cyber-bullying.

In the field of bioethics, youth acknowledge the role technology plays in bioethics and protecting human dignity. The document calls on the Church to deepen its understanding of technology and assist them in discerning its moral usage. 

Several areas of the document call attention to the role of women in society and the Church. “We encourage the Church to deepen its understanding of the role of women and to empower young women, both lay and consecrated, in the spirit of the Church’s love for Mary,” it said. 

Callan, a producer at Salt + Light Television, and fellow Canadian delegate Jacob Jason Genaille-Dustyhorn, 21, worked in small groups to summarize answers from 15 key questions. They said drafting the document involved a lot of pizza and late nights. 

“I thought it was really cool how we got contributions from everybody all over the world,” said Genaille-Dustyhorn, a Cree who is studying at the University of Saskatchewan. “We got to see all the similarities, all the differences and seeing what we can do different was very interesting to see.” 

The youth document will contribute to a working document titled Instrumentum Laboris which will be used by bishops at the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 3-23.

(With files from Catholic News Service)

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