The Catholic Church needs the enthusiasm, daring and hope of young people so it can preach the Gospel energetically and respond to the questions men and women raise today, Pope Francis told some 300 young adults, on 19 March. He was opening a week-long meeting in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment this October at the Vatican.
'We need to rediscover in the Lord the strength to get up after failure, to move forward, to strengthen hope for the future.’
Most of the young people, from around the world, gathered with the pope at the Legionaries of Christ’s Maria Mater Ecclesia College in Rome were chosen as delegates by their national bishops’ conferences. Others represented a variety of Catholic movements or ministries, including religious life. The Vatican also invited delegates from other Christian churches, other religions, including Islam, and young people who describe themselves as nonbelievers.
Pope Francis told the young people that they are the ones who can help the church fight ‘the logic of “it’s always been done this way”,’ which he described as ‘a sweet poison that tranquilises the heart and leaves you anesthetised so you can’t walk.’ The church and its members must continue to go out, continue asking what God is calling them to and continue finding new ways to respond, he said.
Of course, everyone must ‘keep an eye on the roots’ of the church and preserve its essential teachings, but they also must find creative ways to share those teachings and reflect on how the Gospel responds to people’s questions today.
Spending the morning with the young people, Pope Francis heard directly from 10 of them, who represented every region of the world. Some lamented the amount of time their peers spend on social media, while others spoke of how technology helps connect young people and rally them in support of good causes. Some talked of a need for better catechesis and support in fighting the ‘culture of relativism’, while others asked for an open and honest discussion of the church’s teaching on sexuality and on the role of women in the church.
Many young people today, he said, have already decided that the church is not relevant to them. But they are still searching, and church members should go out to meet them and help them see that Christ is the answer to many of their questions.