VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked young people to tell him, their bishops and pastors about their hopes and struggles and even their criticisms.
In preparation for a meeting of the Synod of Bishops focused on youth, the pope wrote a letter to young people, saying the Church wants "to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith, even your doubts and your criticism."
"Make your voice heard," the pope told young people. "Let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls."
The pope's letter was released Jan. 13 along with the preparatory document for the synod. The document includes a series of questions to be answered by national conferences of bishops and other Church bodies. The responses, along with input from young people themselves, will form the basis of the synod's working document.
Pope Francis chose "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" as the theme for the synod gathering, which will be held in October 2018.
Young people will have an opportunity to contribute to the working document by submitting reflections "on their expectations and their lives" through a dedicated website — www.sinodogiovani.va — that will be launched March 1, said Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops.
In his letter, Pope Francis referred to God's call to Abraham. The Old Testament patriarch, he said, "received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this 'new land' for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?"
"A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity," Pope Francis told young people.
The synod preparatory document offered three chapters for reflection by bishops and youths, which it defines as people roughly between the ages of 16 and 29: young people in today's world; faith, discernment and vocation; and pastoral activity.
Through the synod, the document stated, "the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today."
The Church, it stated, needs to evaluate its pastoral approach to young people living in a rapidly changing world with significant challenges to discovering one's vocational path.
"From the vantage point of faith, the situation is seen as a sign of our times, requiring greater listening, respect and dialogue," the document stated.
A special focus of the synod, it stated, will be "on vocational discernment, that is, the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one's state in life."
Specifically for Christians, it stated, the question is: "How does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those He encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life?"
One of the major challenges for young people in defining their personal identity and finding their path in life are the countless options available — particularly when it comes to their careers — that may impede them from making a definitive life choice.
Lack of employment and social and economic hardships, it added, also contribute to "their inability to continue in one career. Generally speaking, these obstacles are even more difficult for young women to overcome," it added.
"If society or the Christian community wants to make something new happen again, they have to leave room for new people to take action," the document stated.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists Jan. 13 that the presence of young men and women at the synod will help bishops understand how best to accompany youths who are searching for their vocation and path in life.
As auditors, young people "will not only be able to take part in the meetings of the general assembly, but also the small working groups," he said.
The complete text of the synod preparatory document in English can be found at: www.stlouisreview.com/bmY
The complete text in Spanish can be found at: www.stlouisreview.com/bmg RELATED ARTICLE(S): (Unpublished) THE CATHOLIC DIFFERENCE | A look at the 'Relatio Finalis' of the Synod of Bishops