04 April 2019, The Tablet

View from Rome

View from Rome

As a young Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio taught literature to a group of rowdy, hormonal teenage boys at a private school in Argentina who, according to one of them, “had no desire to study”. Faced with the chaos of the classroom, the 28-year-old Bergoglio refused to adopt a dictatorial path but instead engaged his pupils by posing them challenges. He demonstrated his passion for a range of writers, even managing to get one of Argentina’s greatest novelists and a giant of Spanish literature, Jorge Luis Borges, to come and talk to his students. Recalling those days Jorge Milia, who is now himself a writer, said the future Pope always urged his students to analyse, to break down arguments and not to be “hoodwinked”.

Decades later, and now sitting in the Chair of St Peter, Papa Bergoglio is adopting a similar teaching method when it comes to considering how the Church should connect with young people. On Tuesday he released Christus Vivit (Christ is alive), his personal response to last October’s youth synod, written as a letter to young people and to the Church.

Rather than a stiff “papal pronouncement” this is Francis’ synthesis of the synod’s work; it includes frequent citations of various bishops’ conference documents but there are several passages in the Pope’s own poetic, literary style. It is the fruit of listening and discernment, and reflects his desire that the Church follows a more synodal way of decision-making. His inspiration is the biblical story of Jesus talking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: he invites us to let go of our fears, to admit mistakes and to leave behind the old ways of doing things.

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