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Pope invites youth (including atheists and non-Catholics) to pre-synod meeting

© ServizioFotograficoOR/CPP
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Says the Church wants to listen to their doubts and critiques

In preparation for a global meeting a year from now on the topic of young people and vocations, Pope Francis is organizing a preparatory event for March and inviting youth from all over the world, including not just Catholic youth, but also young people of other faiths and atheists.

Pope Francis announced the pre-synodal March 19-24 meeting at the end of Wednesday’s general audience. It is an event in the lead-up to the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” which will take place in October of 2018.

The Church wants to listen to “the voice, the sensibilities, the faith, and also the doubts and critiques, of young people,” the pope said. To that end, “the conclusions of the meeting in March will be communicated to the Synod Fathers.”

And so, after the Synods on the Family, Pope Francis is setting the Church on a path of reflection about young people in relation to the family—the “nucleus of society”—and to the content of the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

The objective, Pope Francis said, is to accompany and guide young people along their path toward maturity, helping them to know how to discern, and to understand the paths that separate good from evil so they can successfully carry out their plans for their lives.

Pope Francis has repeatedly invited young people to keep their hopes alive, to continue dreaming, and to allow God to come into their lives.

The date of the closing of the pre-Synodal meeting (March 24, 2018) coincides with the celebration of the Eucharist on Palm Sunday. The young people will, in this way, be able to participate in the Mass which will be presided over by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square. That day is also the celebration of the diocesan-level 33rd World Youth Day, the theme of which will be: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Listening to young people 

The General Secretary of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, thanked Pope Francis for this convocation, which “will allow young people to express their expectations and desires, including their doubts and worries” about today’s complex world.

The pre-synodal tradition of consulting lay people is not new. Baldisseri mentioned that initiatives of this kind have been used in the past, such as in preparation for the 7th Ordinary General Assembly in 1987 about the vocation and mission of laity in the Church, as well the Symposium in preparation for the 1st Special Assembly for Europe in 1991.

The young people invited to this pre-synodal meeting will go to Rome at the invitation of the Episcopal Conferences and of the Eastern Churches, and will include youth chosen from among members of consecrated life, seminarians, and members of ecclesial movements and groups.

Participants will also include young people representing the world of schools, universities, and culture, as well as work, sports, arts, and volunteerism. There will also be young men and women from what Pope Francis calls the “existential peripheries.”

The discussion will be broadened by the presence of educators, experts, and formators who are committed to helping young people in the process of discernment.

Materials for reflection 

The pre-synodal meeting is a new element of the already-initiated phase of consultations, described in the Preparatory Document. A questionnaire and website have been created to collect young people’s opinions. The Vatican also organized an International Seminar on the situation of youth.

The Secretary of the Synod of Bishops has confirmed that all these elements will be added to other materials that are given to the Synod Fathers. All this documentation helps them reflect and go deeper into the issues before they arrive at the Ordinary Synod.

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