As the Vatican released the preparatory document for the 2018 synod of bishops on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment”, Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan said the value of knowing the thoughts and aspirations of young people in the Church can never be overestimated.
The preparatory document included a series of questions to be answered by national conferences of bishops and other Church bodies. Responses, along with input from youth, will be used to help prepare the synod’s working document.

In a letter accompanying the preparatory document, Pope Francis encouraged young people to tell him, their bishops and pastors of their (youths’) hopes, struggles as well as criticisms.

“A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity,” Pope Francis wrote. “Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master.”

Bishop Drennan, the secretary of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference and one of the New Zealand representatives at the last synod, said it would be great if New Zealand’s bishops “could see the contributions coming from young Kiwis”.

“The value of immersing ourselves in the thoughts and questions and aspirations of young people can never be overestimated,” he said.

Bishop Drennan said there will be an Internet facility aimed specially at young people enabling them to make direct on-line contributions.

The Catholic News Service reported that the dedicated website — www.sinodogiovani.va — will be launched on March 1.

Bishop Drennan did not discount the possibility of New Zealand’s bishops adding their own questions.

“The survey is international and so we need to respect the common framework. But I don’t think there would be anything stopping us from adding a few questions for our own reflection,” he said.

A new feature of the synod questionnaire is the inclusion of three specific questions for particular geographic areas. Asia and Oceania were grouped together by the Vatican.

The questions for this region are: a) Why and how do religious gatherings by those who are non-Catholic exercise an attraction on young people?; b) In what way can the values of a local culture be combined with Christian teaching, while also giving importance to popular piety?; and c) How is the language used in a young people’s world incorporated in the pastoral care of young people, especially in the media, sports and music?

Bishop Drennan said the questions specific to our region show “there is a recognition that we live in a pluralistic society — people of various faiths and none”.

“The question of inculturation is also raised which is of great importance. During the synod on the family, a strong euro-centric focus in the preparatory documents was superseded during the synod itself,” he noted.

Bishop Drennan said the questions might be more effective in eliciting responses, “if we facilitate the exploration of [the questions] in groups or communities of young people”.

He stressed the Church needs to be more inclusive in terms of language.

“We have to do everything possible to stop the ongoing use of language which resonates as though young people are ‘out there’ and that ‘the Church’ talks to ‘them’. Pope Francis outshines that kind of inadequate ecclesiology,” he said.

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