Sunday, 25 March 2018

Youth say they want a Church that's transparent, up-to-date

At the end of a week-long meeting held at the Vatican, young people from around the world have urged the Church to be more authentic, modern and creative in the way it interacts with young people, and in addressing controversial contemporary issues.

“We want to say, especially to the hierarchy of the Church, that they should be a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community,” the youth delegates said in the final document of this week's pre-synod meeting in Rome.

“A credible Church,” they said, “is one which is not afraid to allow itself be seen as vulnerable.”

The document, released March 24, is the product of a week-long discussion with some 300 young people from different cultural and religious backgrounds, who gathered in Rome for a March 19-24 pre-synod meeting, which is a precursor to the October synod of bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”
Youth were divided into 20 different languages groups, in which they reflected on a several questions throughout the week. Those who weren't able to attend the meeting took part via social media, specifically through six different Facebook groups in different languages, which were moderated by other youth and discussed the same topics addressed in the Rome gathering.

Between the Rome gathering and social media participation, some 15,300 young people took part in the discussion. Drafting groups were tasked with taking the conclusions of the 26 different groups and compiling them into one comprehensive text.

An initial draft was written and presented to the group Thursday, and several of the youth participants made comments. Adjustments were made and the final draft was approved Saturday morning. It will be given to Pope Francis during his March 24 Palm Sunday Mass, which also marks the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day.

The 16-page document is divided into three sections: the challenges and opportunities of young people; faith, vocation, discernment and accompaniment and the Church’s formative and pastoral activities.

According to the document's introduction, it is not intended to be “a theological treatise” and nor was it written “to establish new Church teaching.” Rather, it is meant to serve as “a compass” for bishops in their October discussion as they seek to understand the reality of youth today.

The text said that young people want to be listened to and taken seriously, and noted that they often seek communities that are supportive and which “empower them,” giving them a sense of identity and belonging.

"Young people look for a sense of self by seeking communities that are supportive, uplifting, authentic and accessible: communities that empower them," the document said, while noting that for some religion is now “a private matter,” and said that at times, it seems that “the sacred appears to be something separated from our daily lives.”

“The Church oftentimes appears as too severe and is often associated with excessive moralism,” they said, adding that “sometimes, in the Church, it is hard to overcome the logic of 'it has always been done this way.'”

Rather, the text said “we need a Church that is welcoming and merciful, which appreciates its roots and patrimony and which loves everyone, even those who are not following the perceived standards.”

“Sadly not all of us believe sainthood is something achievable and that it is a path to happiness," the document said.

Young people, they wrote, “are deeply vested in and concerned about topics such as sexuality, addiction, failed marriages, broken families as well as larger-scale social issues such as organized crime, human trafficking, violence, corruption, exploitation, femicide, all forms of persecution and the degradation of our natural environment.”

However, one paragraph mentioned that  among young people there is clear disagreement on certain “controversial” Church teachings dealing with issues such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, the permanency of marriage, and the priesthood.

The paragraph noted that many don't understand Church teaching on these issues, and that of those who do, not all of them are in agreement. Young people “may want the Church to change her teaching as a result, or at least have access to a better explanation,” they said, but “even so, they desire to be part of the Church.”

Other young Catholics, the document said "accept these teachings and find in them a source of joy. They desire the Church to not only hold fast to them amid unpopularity but also to proclaim them with greater depth of teaching."

Youth disagree on the topic of migration, the document said, but converge on the need to promote social justice, saying “although we acknowledge our common call to care for the dignity of every human person, there’s no consensus on the question of welcoming migrants and refugees.”

They also pointed to specific challenges such as globalization, an increase in secularism, racism, the difficulties faced by people in countries where Christianity is a minority, and the increasing number of Christian martyrs.

“As we grapple with these challenges,” they said, “we need inclusion, welcome, mercy and tenderness from the Church – both as an institution and as a community of faith.”

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