Young people can teach Church

The youth ministry is an important feature of the Church and the real meaning of “synodality” is well understood by young people, Pope Francis says.

Young people have lessons they could teach the Church about synodality, Pope Francis says.

“They have asked us in a thousand ways to walk alongside them — not behind them or ahead of them, but at their side. Not over them or under them, but on their level.”

Francis made the comment in the introduction to a new Italian book of essays about youth ministry.

“Around the Living Fire of the Synod: Educating for the Good Life of the Gospel,” was written by Fr Rossano Sala, a Salesian priest.

Sala was one of the special secretaries of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people.

“Discernment” was one of the key topics at the synod. It was also a key focus in “Christus Vivit,” Francis’ 2019 post-synod apostolic exhortation.

In his comment in Sala’s book, Francis says he is not trying “to transform every member of the people of God into a Jesuit.”

The Jesuit order specialises in teaching spiritual discernment or prayerfully reading the signs of the times and seeking to know how God wants individuals and the church to respond.

Some people think “the pressing call to discernment is a fad of this pontificate and it is destined to pass quickly,” Francis says.

However, in his view the spiritual practice is essential today when things are changing quickly. Many people are struggling and many need to hear the Gospel, he says.

To achieve spiritual discernment, listening and dialogue are key first steps, Francis wrote.

“It is more necessary than ever today to enter into an honest listening to the joys and struggles of every member of the people of God, and especially of every young person.

“The church as a whole still has a lot of work to do” in learning to listen “because too often, instead of being ‘experts in humanity,’ we end up being considered rigid and incapable of listening.”

The Gospel shows us that listening was the first attitude of Jesus. It should be our first response to encountering another person made in God’s image and loved by God, Francis explained.

Dialogue is the natural second step, he continued.

“It is born from the conviction that in the other, the one who is before us, there are always the resources of nature and grace.

“Dialogue is the style that exalts the generosity of God because it recognizes his presence in everything and, therefore, one must find him in every person and be courageous enough to let him speak,” he wrote.

There are many signals showing the church it must change. These include the digital revolution, the climate crisis, migration and “the plague of abuse” and the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis wrote. These are “transforming everyone’s existence and we don’t know where it will lead.”

Francis says the choice to focus on “synodality” at the next general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in 2022, is a natural outcome of the synod on young people.


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