An estimated 300 young people from around the world will come to the Vatican March 19 - 24 for a week-long conference to prepare for the October meeting of Catholic bishops on issues facing the young today. But other young people can participate in this meeting via Facebook. The October Synod of bishops will be held between 3 and 28 October 2018 on the theme: "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment." Cardinal Baldisseri, who heads the Vatican's synod office, said the March pre-synod event will help the bishops direct their preparations for the later meeting. "We are not speaking only 'about' them but 'with' them: They will speak to us with their own language, their own enthusiasm, their sensibility....In short, even through the new technologies of communication, the pre-synod meeting wants to broaden as much as possible the audience of young people involved so that no one should feel excluded," Cardinal Baldisseri said.
"This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth," said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a participant in the pre-synod gathering. "It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take."
A young Burundi woman living in Italy, Nishimwe told journalists that she believes the March gathering is "something that God wants from the Church, to do something new for all the youth of the world."
"Because youth from all over the world, whether they are Catholics or from other religions, have the same questions," she said, adding that she thinks it is important that the Church wants to walk with young people "in this world with so much pain, with so many questions that don't have answers."
The pre-synod meeting will give young people - those present in Rome and those online via Facebook - an opportunity to interact with Pope Francis and ask him some questions. The participants will then be split into groups based on the languages they speak and will be asked to discuss specific topics in view of creating a final document from their meeting.
Sign up on Facebook
So, Millennials, don't miss this opportunity of a lifetime. Go now to sign up on Facebook and make your voices heard online at this important meeting. Don't let the Vatican operatives do an end-run around your parents. Take this opportunity to let Church leaders know what you want and need from the Church. Our fear, well founded based on research, is that the deck is being stacked with obedient "yes, father" youth to be the attendees sent by Bishops Conferences worldwide to the Pre-Synod meeting in March and the Synod on Youth scheduled for October 2018. If there is to be any change in the Church, if we are to return to the spirit of Vatican II and the message of Jesus Christ that love is the fulfilling of the law [Romans13: 8-10], we need many more young people to speak up and respond to Francis's outreach. It is crucial that the voices of young people reach the special meeting called by the Holy Father this March in preparation for the Synod on youth in October. Learn more about this meeting and learn more about signing up on Facebook.
Where are the young people today?
In an NCR article, it is reported that a study asks: Why are young Catholics going, going, gone? It is a well-known fact that vast numbers of young people have turned away from the Church. Why? Because they are more open to a rapidly changing world, having grown up in it without the prejudices of prior generations. From this vantage point, they see the grace of God in fresher and more vibrant terms than a Church governed by older generations. Whether it's feelings of being judged by religious leaders who don't know or understand them, or being forced by their parents to attend church, or witnessing the sexual abuse scandal and the hypocrisy of church hierarchy, young people are expressing a desire both to break free from organized religion and to be part of a community. From the perspective of those of us interested in bringing about needed reform in the church, there are certain topics that Church hierarchy noticeably avoids, particularly those directly related to:
- right of the members to participate in the decision-making of the Church
- welcoming of all to the Eucharist recognizing it as a sacrament of healing not reward.
- treatment of the LGBT community
- equality of women in the Church
- sexual abuse issue by Catholic priests
- responsible parenthood vs. the prohibition of artificial contraception
- couples living together prior to marriage
- couples entering into inter-faith relationships
This is a time for bringing these and other issues up that represent the wants and needs of youth today.