The Synod in Rome in October last year focused on young people, faith and vocational discernment; in his reflection on the Synod published last week, Pope Francis places the energy, creativity and openness of young people at the centre of his reform of the Church
“They’ve let us down – surely it’s not much to ask: be good and go to Mass.” This from a recent conversation with a parish priest criticising the young people who attend the Catholic school in his London parish, but, much to his distress, rarely appear at Mass.
In calling a Synod on “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment”, it’s easy to think this is what Pope Francis was trying to address: young people don’t turn up and don’t care any more. But that’s not it. There are problems, yes, but his new apostolic exhortation, Christus vivit, reflects a different conviction. Francis believes that the young are not the problem; they are at the heart of the solution.
In Christus vivit, Francis makes clear that young people are his partners in the renewal of the Church. He looks to the peripheries to drive his renewal. Just as he sees indigenous peoples and the poor as a place where the Church can learn what God wants from us today, he believes young people have the energy, ideas, creativity and openness to new approaches often lacking at the centre. In Francis’ words, “each young person’s heart should thus be considered ‘holy ground’, a bearer of seeds of divine life, before which we must take off our shoes” (67).