[Austen Ivereigh] The preparatory document for the next synod was launched by the Vatican today, together with a letter from Pope Francis to young people calling for them to make their voices heard in the run-up to October 2018.
The lineamenta, or preparatory document, entitled ‘Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment’, makes clear that the Church will for the first time be inviting young people — defined in the document as aged 16 to 29 — to help the Church work out effective ways of evangelizing in today’s world.
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,” but also to “ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today,” the document says.
“By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow.”
The Vatican also released the text of a short letter addressed to young people by Pope Francis in which he quotes the Rule of St Benedict, founder of western monasticism, in which he urges abbots to consult young people prior to any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.”
“The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism,” Francis says in the letter, adding: “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”
By listening carefully to what young people are saying to the Church, the synod hopes to develop new strategies for helping them discern their future.
The preparatory document invites a three-stage reflection: an analysis of the social and cultural dynamics of contemporary society, a review of the basic process of discernment, and a vocational programme for youth. It concludes with a series of questions for discussion in the local Church, leading eventually to submissions in advance of the synod.
For the first time the synod will also launch a website in March that will question young people directly about their own expectations, feeding the answers into the working document for the bishops gathered in Rome in October 2018.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod’s general secretary, said in a press conference today that he wants responses to the questions by the end of October in order to prepare a working document for the Synod in early 2018.
Text of Pope Francis’s letter.
My Dear Young People,
I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.
I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.
When God said to Abram, “Go!”, what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram 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?
But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).
I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: “Teacher […] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.
In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “yes!”. That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, […], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).
A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).
Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).
With paternal affection,