Russell Pollitt SJ
Three participants at the Synod of Bishops on Youth attended the daily press briefing. These included Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, auxiliary bishop of Lyon, France, Emmanuel Gobilliard and Italian author Mr Thomas Leoncini. After offering their impressions of the Synod, two issues were addressed: the sexual abuse of minors and the role of women in the Church.
Participants impressions of the Synod
Archbishop Scicluna opened the briefing by saying that he was touched by the very vocal presence of 30 young people at the Synod who, at times, reacted vociferously to what they heard. He said that this gives the bishops a good indication of what is expected of them. Bishop Gobillard said that the young people reminded the bishops that they are part of the Church and showed them the “pathway” to preach the Gospel more authentically. Mr Leoncini said that Pope Francis was, for many young people, the greatest leader amongst leaders and that they really felt listened to and accompanied by him. He said that the Synod has shown him that the Church is not fearful to ask questions that seek radical answers.
Archbishop Scicluna addressed abuse directly. He said that the comments made last week by Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Melbourne were an important “mea culpa” which capture the sense of all the Synod Fathers. He said that young people are searching for an authentic Church and that every working group at the Synod has touched on this issue. Stressing the need for action, he said that bishops must be accountable not only to God but also to their people. “Stewardship is the word, protection is the word,” Archbishop Scicluna said. He added that he had cried with victims many times. The archbishop said that when he meets with victims they are often no longer young. “It pains me that justice takes so long. This is also very painful to Pope Francis”. He said that he is a direct witness of how Pope Francis suffers because justice seems to be so slow.
Bishop Gobillard said that it was better for sin to be revealed than hidden because this enables victims to begin the healing process and helps the Church to deal with it. He said that the situation of abuse is one that the Church is ashamed of. It was important for the bishops to count on young people’s accompaniment so that this issue is dealt with in formation and in places like seminaries. The bishop also remarked that because the Church has faced this scandalous behaviour it does not mean that there should be restraint from talking about this important aspect of being human.
Speaking about the role of women in the Church, Mr Leoncini said that the small group he was in spoke extensively about women’s rights – recognising that this also differed from culture to culture. Bishop Gobillard commented that many women were responsible for active participation in local Churches and this is an important fact that must be acknowledged.
Archbishop Scicluna said that the role of women is an important issue that the Holy Father has been vocal about. He said that the Church needs to listen closely to women and give them more important leadership roles. Pope Francis, the archbishop said, has already called for this in the Curia. He also said that it is very important that women are empowered in local Churches.