ROME — The Catholic Church needs the enthusiasm, daring and
hope of young people to preach the Gospel energetically and respond to
the questions men and women raise today, Pope Francis told about 300
“We need to rediscover in the Lord the strength to
get up after failure, to move forward, to strengthen hope for the
future,” the pope said March 19, opening a week-long meeting in
preparation for the Synod of Bishops in October.
Most of the young
people gathered with the pope at the Legionaries of Christ’s Maria
Mater Ecclesia College in Rome were chosen as delegates by their
national bishops’ conferences. Others represented Catholic movements or
ministries, including religious life. But the Vatican also invited
delegates from other Christian churches, other religions, including
Islam, and young people who describe themselves as nonbelievers.
Francis told the young people that they can help the Church fight “the
logic of ‘it’s always been done this way,’” which he described as “a
poison, a sweet poison that tranquilizes the heart and leaves you
anesthetized so you can’t walk.”
The Church and its members must continue to go out, ask to what God is calling them and find new ways to respond, the pope said.
must “keep an eye on the roots” of the Church and preserve its
essential teachings, he said. But they also must find creative ways to
share teachings and reflect on how the Gospel responds to people’s
Pope Francis heard directly from 10 of them, who
represented every region of the world. Some lamented the amount of time
many spend on social media, while others spoke of how technology helps
connect young people and rally them in support of good causes. Some
talked of a need for better catechesis and support in fighting the
“culture of relativism,” while others asked for an open and honest
discussion of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and on the role of
women in the Church.
We need to rediscover in the Lord the strength to get up after failure, to move forward, to strengthen hope for the future.
A young man from France, Maxime Rassion, told
the pope he hasn’t been baptized, but he has questions about the
meaning of his life and his relationship to the world and to God, if God
exists. He said he isn’t sure if he wants to approach the Catholic
Church for help because it’s so big and he doesn’t want to give up his
freedom. But he asked the pope where he should start.
“You have already begun,” the pope told him. “The danger is not allowing the question to come up.”
people must have “the courage to tell themselves the naked truth” about
their hopes and weaknesses, the pope said, and then they must find a
wise person — someone patient, “who won’t be frightened by anything” —
with whom they can talk through their questions.
a young Nigerian rescued from forced prostitution in Italy, asked the
pope what could be done to increase awareness of human trafficking and
whether the Church, which is “still too chauvinistic,” really is capable
of helping young women and men relate to each other as equals.
is a serious problem,” the pope said. It stems from a widespread
mentality that says, “women are to be exploited,” he said, and he asked
young people to “battle against this.”
“One who goes to a
prostitute is a criminal, a criminal,” Pope Francis said. “This is not
making love. This is torturing a woman. Let’s not confuse the terms.
This is criminal.”
Like many speakers, Angela Markas, a Chaldean
Catholic and a delegate from Australia, spoke to Pope Francis and her
peers about young people’s questions regarding their identity.
youth, we are in need of guidance,” she said. But from talking to
friends, family and young people she tutors, “I feel young people are
less drawn to seek this guidance from someone associated with the
Church. There are many reasons, but a consistent one is that youth feel
disconnected from the Church.”
But they also want the Church to
take them and their concerns seriously, Markas said. “There is a
tendency in the Church to avoid matters that are not so easy to talk
about. This includes same-sex marriage, our sexuality, and also the role
of women in the Church.”
Nick Lopez, a campus minister at the
University of Dallas and a delegate chosen by the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, also addressed the opening session with the pope and
focused on the youth and young-adult years as a time of transition:
“moving, choosing, experimenting, failing, succeeding, fearing and
hoping that that next steps we make are the steps that God is calling us
Many young people today, he said, have already decided
that the Church isn’t relevant to them. But they’re still searching, and
Church members should go out to meet them and help them see that Christ
is the answer to many of their questions, he added.