By Rev Fr John Damian Adizie
2018 is a special year for young people. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invoked an extraordinary synod in October 2018 to discuss Young People, Faith and vocational Discernment.
According to him, “The Church wants again to state her desire to encounter, accompany and care for every young person, with-out exception. The Church cannot, nor does she wish to, abandon them to the isolation and exclusion to which the world exposes them.” For the Holy Father, every young person must be carried along! Interestingly, the Pope started by defining his idea of youths. In most parts of the world people who are old enough to have grandchildren are still claiming to be youths.
Those who are due for retirement are falsifying the-ir age in order to retain their jobs whereas the young people, especially graduates, are roaming about without job. Solution to unemployment re-mains a mirage until the elderly ones are ready to retire and handover to the youths and then maintain their rightful position as senior citizens. With this, the Holy Father decided to put an age bracket to his idea of youths. “The word “youth” refers to persons who are rough-ly 16 to 29 years old… In any case, it is good to remember that the term “youth”, in addition to referring to per-sons, is a stage of life that each generation understands in an unequal, original manner.” Having made this clarification, the Holy Father highlights some of the cur-rent challenges facing the youths: “In many parts of the world, young people are experiencing particular hardships which pose difficulties for them in making real choices in life, be-cause they have not even the minimal possibility to exercise freedom.
This situation includes young people experiencing poverty and exclusion; those who grow up without parents or family, or are unable to go to school; children and young kids who live on the street in many suburbs, unemployed, displaced and migrants; victims of exploitation, trafficking and slavery; children forcefully recruited in criminal gangs or as guerilla fighters; forced to marry against their will. Oftentimes female children, little girls and young women face even greater difficulties than their male peers.”
The upcoming synod is meant to address some of these existential issues facing the young people. As the universal ecclesia advocates for practical pastoral care for the youths, the Church in Nigeria should not be indifferent to the needs of the youths. I appeal to the Shepherds and Pastors in Africa to join the Holy Father in this noble campaign for the practical pastoral care of the youths. Thus, building the youths is building the church and even the society at large!
…Informal agenda likely to weigh heavily at Synod
Every time a pope summons a cross-section of bishops from around the world to Rome for a summit called a “synod,” the contrast between formal and informal agendas always forms part of the story. Rarely, however, has it loomed quite as large as it likely will during the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment.
Formally, the topic for this gathering is “young people, faith and vocational discernment.” It’s obvious, however, that for many bishops arriving in Rome, particularly those from countries hardest hit by the Church’s clerical sexual abuse scandals, the idea of spending three weeks without also talking about the elephant in the room would be unthinkable.
Furthermore, seeing that Pope Francis has summoned the head of the bishops’ conferences to Rome next February to discuss child protection, it’s even harder to imagine that many of the prelates coming won’t want to take advantage of the opportunity to kick start that dialogue.
At a bare minimum, as Jesuit Father Tom Reese told Crux recently, “the synod is a chance for bishops who have gone through the crisis to tell their colleagues, ‘Don’t make the same mistakes we did. Clean house now before it is too late’.”
For bishops coming from countries where the crisis is in full-blown mode, such as the United States, Chile or even Poland – where the scandals are now being discussed openly, something that would have seemed taboo not so long ago in the land of St. Pope John Paul II – a trip to Rome can provide a unique opportunity to have the Holy See answer some questions.