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Pope Francis accepted offertory gifts as he celebrates the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct 3.
Pope Francis accepted offertory gifts as he celebrates the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct 3.
Photo Credit: Vatican Media

Pope asks bishops, young people to drop their prejudices as synod begins

One mission of synod is to confirm that the Church is “capable of radiating and conveying Christ’s timeless message” to young people

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked bishops to be bold, honest, open-minded, charitable and, especially, prayerful as they begin a three-week meeting on “young people, the faith and vocational discernment.”

While many young people think no older person has anything useful to teach them for living today, the pope said, the age of the bishops, combined with clericalism, can lead “us to believe that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen or learn anything.”

Pope Francis addressed the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct 3.
Photo Credits: Paul Haring | Catholic News Service
“Clericalism is a perversion and is the root of many evils in the Church,” Pope Francis said Oct. 3 at the synod’s first working session. “We must humbly ask forgiveness for this and above all create the conditions so that it is not repeated.”

The pope formally welcomed 267 bishops and priests as voting members of the synod, eight fraternal delegates from other Christian churches and another 72 young adults, members of religious orders and lay men and women observers and experts at the synod, which will meet through Oct. 28.

He also thanked the thousands of young people who responded to a Vatican questionnaire, participated in a presynod meeting in March or spoke to their bishops about their concerns. With the gift of their time and energy, he said, they “wagered that it is worth the effort to feel part of the Church or to enter into dialogue with her.”

They showed that, at least on some level, they believe the Church can be a mother, teacher, home and family to them, he said. And they are asserting that “despite human weaknesses and difficulties,” they believe the Church is “capable of radiating and conveying Christ’s timeless message.”

“Our responsibility here at the synod,” the pope said, “is not to undermine them, but rather to show that they are right to wager: It truly is worth the effort, it is not a waste of time!”

Pope Francis began the synod with an invitation that every participant “speak with courage and frankness” because “only dialogue can help us grow.”

A willingness to “change our convictions and positions,” he said, is “a sign of great human and spiritual maturity.”

The synod is designed to be an “exercise in discernment,” the pope told them. “Discernment is ... an interior attitude rooted in an act of faith.”

Listening to the Spirit, listening to God in prayer and listening to the hopes and dreams of young people are part of the Church’s mission, the pope said. The preparatory process for the synod “highlighted a Church that needs to listen, including to those young people who often do not feel understood by the Church” or feel they “are not accepted for who they really are, and are sometimes even rejected.”

The goal of the synod, Pope Francis said, is not to prepare a document — synod documents, he said, generally are “only read by a few and criticized by many” — but to identify “concrete pastoral proposals” that would help all Church members reach out to, walk with and support the faith of young people.

In other words, he said, the goal is “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands and inspire in young people — all young people, with no one excluded — a vision of the future filled with the joy of the Gospel.”

Deacon Javier Ayala of Santiago, Chile, a member of the Legionaries of Christ who is studying in Rome, attended the synod’s opening Mass.

Deacon Ayala, who is to be ordained a priest in Rome next year, assisted in the presynod process of collecting thousands of responses to a questionnaire and feedback via social media from young people; he also took part in a presynod meeting of young people in Rome in March.

“The Church is a mother and she knows that there are many young people outside and wants to call them; she wants to invite them because (the Church) isn’t just another institution. She wants to lead them to Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life,” he said.

“We shouldn’t expect precise solutions from the synod nor calculations,” he said. The point of the synod is “to keep reflecting on the best pastoral ways to reach young people. I don’t think this is an ending point, but rather a starting point that is part of the new evangelization of the Church.”

Be lifeline of hope for youth alienated from Church, pope tells synod

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged synod fathers not to be crushed by “prophets of doom,” but to be the signs of hope and joy for which today’s young people yearn.

“Anointed by hope, let us begin a new ecclesial meeting,” he said in the homily at Mass Oct. 3, opening the Synod of Bishops.

Filled with hope and faith, he said, the synod members can “broaden our horizons, expand our hearts and transform those frames of mind that today paralyze, separate and alienate us from young people, leaving them exposed to stormy seas, orphans without a faith community that should sustain them, orphans devoid of a sense of direction and meaning in life.”

Among the hundreds of synod participants and thousands of guests celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square were two bishops from mainland China, the first from the communist country to attend a synod. With his voice shaking, the pope offered them “our warm welcome: the communion of the entire episcopate with the Successor of Peter is yet more visible thanks to their presence.”

He reminded the bishops that when most of them were young, Blessed Paul VI called on them during the Second Vatican Council to lead the way in renewing the world through Christ.

Quoting the soon-to-be saint’s message to young people in 1965, the pope recalled how the Church was depending on them — as young people of the day and the future of the Church — to “express your faith in life” and faith in “a good and just God.”

Pope Francis asked synod members to participate in the upcoming discussions with an “attitude of docile listening to the voice of the Spirit” and to each other “to discern together what the Lord is asking of His Church.”

With love for the Gospel and the faithful, synod members must aim to follow God’s will and “an even greater good that will benefit all of us. Without this disposition, all of our efforts will be in vain.”

— Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

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