By Russell Pollitt, SJ
Despite the varying situations and contexts of young people across the world their basic aspirations are the same. They want to be taken seriously, listened to, allowed to contribute and they want us to trust them, Cardinal Oswald Gracias from India said.
“Listening is key in the Synod process,” said French Sister Nathalie Becquart. The first stage of the Synod, she explained, has been about listening to the sociological situation of young people but also listening to how God is acting now. Cardinal Gracias said that the bishops started listening in the Synod preparation. During that phase the Synod committee received over 100 thousand answers to the questionnaire that was sent out.
Canadian Cardinal Gerald Cyprien La Croix explained how, in the small groups and in the Synod assembly, young people shared ideas. He said that there were powerful mutual exchanges. He explained how new process of listening to inputs and then taking a silent pause was helpful because it gave participants time to reflect on what they heard.
Cardinal Gracias said that he was really struck, when listening to young people share, that there was a strong call from across the world for the Church to ensure that liturgies were done better. He explained how the first part of the Synod has been focussed on lots of sociological data. In the second part of the process they will analyse this data and then, in the third part, look at appropriate pastoral responses and programmes.
Despite the turbulence in the Church, which has been addressed at the Synod and not shunned, young people are still committed to and active in the Church, said Madagacan Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana. The Church in Madagascar has asked all the faithful to ensure that life and faith are not separated, a real call to conversion of the whole Church. Cardinal Tsarahazana explained how extreme poverty and employment lead to corruption. Young people get infected by this - like a gangrene. Often young people buy diplomas and try to buy jobs because they are desperate. He said that injustice favours insecurity and that if we did not separate life and faith then we would not find ourselves in the current situation of such extreme poverty.
Cardinal La Croix reiterated the call to conversion of all the baptised. He remarked that part of this is ensuring the Church offers better formation to all God’s people. He said that this is most especially true for clergy and religious in the area of affectivity and sexuality. Cardinal Gracias added that young people want an authentic Church – as do the bishops. “If there have been failures in the past, these must be rectified,” he said.
The issue of women in the Church was addressed again. Cardinal Gracias said that Pope Francis doesn’t want cosmetic changes but responsibility and decision-making positions in Church for women. Sr Becquart said that she was struck to see how the topic of women came up strongly from young people because they live in a world in which relations between men and women have changed. She also said that the issue of women was brought up by many bishops and this leads her to believe that the issue of women’s roles and responsibility in the Church have been heard. She said that the Synod participants are trying to live as an inclusive Church of both men and women walking together.