VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church and its members must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the Church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith, the Synod of Bishops stated.
While the synod’s final document spoke of friendship, affection, sexuality and “sexual inclinations,” those issues weren’t the center of concern in the lengthy final document, which was released Oct. 27.
The final document focused on improving ways to support young Catholics’ baptismal call to holiness, to welcome their contributions to the Church and help them grow in faith and in decide the state of life that would best correspond to what God wants from them.
The emphasis of listening to young people also led to an emphasis on the Church listening to all people — including women — renewing communities and structures for a “synodal Church” in which all members listen to, support and challenge one another and share responsibility for the Church’s one mission of spreading the Gospel.
“Listening is an encounter in freedom, which requires humility, patience, willingness to understand and a commitment to working out responses in a new way,” the document stated.
The bishops stated they heard from many young people about a need for “courageous cultural conversion and a change in daily pastoral practice” to promote the equality of women in society and in the Church.
“An area of particular importance in this regard is the presence of women in Church bodies at all levels, including in leadership roles, and the participation of women in Church decision-making processes while respecting the role of the ordained ministry,” the document stated. “This is a duty of justice.”
The document acknowledged how, in some countries, young people are moving away from the Church or question its teachings, especially on sexuality.
The Church’s response, the synod stated, must be a commitment of time and patience to help young people “grasp the relationship between their adherence to faith in Jesus Christ and the way they live their affectivity and interpersonal relationships.”
Church teaching that all people are called to chastity and to refrain from sexual relations outside the bond of marriage between a man and a woman must be presented clearly, but not with a judgmental attitude, it added.
The document mentioned young people’s questions about homosexuality, sexual orientation and differences between men and women and called for “a more in-depth anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration” on the Church’s position on those issues. The final document used the term “sexual inclination” rather than “sexual orientation” in the draft document.
“The synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the Church, renewing its commitment against all sexually-based discrimination and violence,” the final document stated. “It also reaffirms the decisive anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it reductive to define the identity of persons solely on the basis of their ‘sexual orientation.’”
The clerical sex abuse scandal and financial scandals in the Catholic Church are leading many people, not only young people, away from the faith, the synod acknowledged.
The final document stated, “The Synod expresses gratitude to those who have had the courage to denounce the evil they have suffered: they help the Church become aware of what has happened and of the need to react decisively” to ensure abuse does not continue to occur.
On “vocation,” synod members emphasized how the basic, common Christian vocation is the call to holiness, which can and should be lived out in every state of life: young or old, single or married or in the priesthood or religious life.
“Vocation is neither a script a human being is called to recite, nor a spontaneous theatrical moment leaving no traces,” the document said. God calls each person into a relationship with him, respects the person’s freedom and yet has a plan for each person’s life; discovering that plan requires prayer and self-examination.
Pope apologizes to young people who have felt ignored
By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Speaking on behalf of all adult Catholics, Pope Francis formally closed the Synod of Bishops by asking young people for forgiveness.
“Forgive us if often we have not listened to you; if, instead of opening our hearts, we have filled your ears. As Christ’s Church, we want to listen to you with love” because young people’s lives are precious in God’s eyes and “in our eyes, too,” the pope said in his homily Oct. 28.
The Mass, celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica, closed the month-long synod on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The pope thanked the 300 synod members, experts, observers and ecumenical delegates for working in communion, with frankness and with the desire to serve God’s people.
“May the Lord bless our steps, so that we can listen to young people, be their neighbors and bear witness before them to Jesus, the joy of our lives,” he said in his homily.
Living the faith and sharing it with the world, especially with young people, entails going out to those in need, listening, being close to them and bearing witness to Jesus’ liberating message of salvation, Pope Francis said.
The pope used the day’s Gospel reading (Mark 10:46-52) and its account of Jesus helping Bartimaeus as a model of how all Christians need to live out and share the faith.
Bartimaeus was blind, homeless and fatherless, and he begged for Jesus’ mercy as soon as he heard He was near, the pope said. Many rebuked the man, “telling him to be silent.”
“For such disciples, a person in need was a nuisance along the way, unexpected and unplanned,” the pope said. Even though they followed Jesus, these disciples wanted things to go their way and preferred talking over listening to others, he said.
“This is a risk constantly to guard against. Yet, for Jesus, the cry of those pleading for help is not a nuisance but a challenge,” the pope said.
Jesus goes to Bartimaeus and lets him speak, taking the time to listen, Pope Francis said. “This is the first step in helping the journey of faith: listening. It is the apostolate of the ear: listening before speaking.”
The next step in the journey of faith, the pope said, is to be a neighbor and do what is needed, without delegating the duty to someone else.
“We want to imitate Jesus and, like Him, to dirty our hands,” just as “the Lord has dirtied His hands for each one of us,” he said. “Let us look at the cross, start from there and remember that God became my neighbor in sin and death.”
The third step in the journey of faith, he said, is to bear witness, particularly to those who are seeking life and salvation, but who “often find only empty promises and few people who really care.”
Synod’s words on ‘synodal’ Church puzzle some people
VATICAN CITY — “Synodality,” a key concept of Pope Francis’ papacy, was used repeatedly in the final document of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocation discernment.
In simple terms, “synodality” means “walking together” with every member of the Church, recognizing that the grace of baptism makes one part of the body of the Church and, therefore, responsible for its life and mission.
“The Church must really let herself be given shape by the Eucharist that she celebrates as the summit and source of her life,” being like “the bread made from many stalks of wheat and broken for the life of the world,” the synod document stated.
“The fruit of this synod, the choice that the Spirit has inspired in us through listening and discernment, is to walk with young people going out to all to witness to the love of God,” it stated. “We can describe this process by speaking of synodality for mission, that is, missionary synodality.”
Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of Peru’s bishops’ conference, told reporters Oct. 25 that the bishops saw how synodality could be a way of life that “promotes everyone’s participation. … When I say everyone, I don’t just mean the Church as in the bishops, priests. No! It is also the laity and the faithful at all levels. And all of us bishops are called — and this is part of that synodality — to make collaboration grow,” Archbishop Cabrejos said.
The International Theological Commission, a group of theologians appointed by the pope and working under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published a lengthy document in March on “Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
In Catholic understanding and usage, the commission wrote, synodality “promotes the baptismal dignity and co-responsibility of all, makes the most of the presence in the people of God of charisms dispensed by the Holy Spirit, recognizes the specific ministry of pastors in collegial and hierarchical communion with the bishop of Rome, and guarantees that synodal processes and events unfold in conformity with the deposit of faith and involve listening to the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the Church’s mission.”
In other words, consulting and listening to all members of the Church is essential for discerning a path forward, but those decisions can’t violate truths of the Christian faith and must be verified by a priest, bishop or the pope, depending on whether the decision is local, diocesan or has a universal impact.
— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service