Joseph Moeono-Kolio was a synod auditor representing Caritas International Youth Forum, Samoa and New Zealand. In Christus Vivit, chapter VI — Young People with Roots, Pope Francis referred to Mr Moeono-Kolio’s four-minute intervention (speech): “[CV 201] During the synod, one of the young auditors from the Samoan Islands spoke of the Church as a canoe, in which the elderly help to keep on course by judging the position of the stars, while the young keep rowing, imagining what waits for them ahead. Let us steer clear of young people who think that adults represent a meaningless past, and those adults who always think they
know how young people should act. Instead, let us all climb aboard the same canoe and together seek a better world, with the constantly renewed momentum of the Holy Spirit”.
by JOSEPH MOEONO-KOLIO
After a lengthy period of consultation and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the general assembly of the synod of bishops convened in October, 2018, on the theme “young people, the faith, and vocational discernment”.
Together with young people and lay auditors from around the world, the Holy Father, bishops, clergy and religious
discussed how the Church can become a more effective and life-giving guide for young people as they traverse the many challenges we face around the world today.
Taken together with the pre-synodal document, the final document of the synod, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit is a significant step in the life of the Church as it seeks to understand and accompany young
people, as Christ himself does.
I am obviously surprised at being quoted, but nonetheless grateful that the Holy Father has deemed the wisdom and insight of Pacific peoples to be something of value which the universal Church can learn from both now and when they continue studying this in the years to come. For generations, we in the Pacific have practised an intergenerational solidarity as a function of our integrated ecology, and understood that whether it is in voyaging, in daily life or in the Church, both young and old are needed to harness the canoe’s full potential and overcome our greatest challenges.
So with this understanding, even as the Church is currently navigating its own sea of challenges, it is not adrift. Together with young people who help to craft the canoe and are at the oars, we can steer Peter’s canoe back in the right direction and continue being the vessel for the Holy Spirit to do its work in the world. The intergenerational approach means empowering our young people to contribute to this work — a work that is more important now than ever before.
Reflective of the synodal process
Christus Vivit demonstrates firstly that Pope Francis intuitively gets it — he understands both what is at stake if we do nothing, and the opportunity there is to bring the Church together and usher in a period of renewal, beginning with this moment of listening, learning and reflection.
Moreover, Pope Francis in true collegial fashion, does not adjudicate what happens from here, but rather models for the leaders of our Church what our next steps should be: changing the culture of ageism we’ve long held and beginning to cultivate a more intergenerational culture, which the Holy Father has seen fit to quote. It means co-creating the spaces where young and old are invited in together, listening to them, and speaking to them of Jesus Christ with tenderness and with the expectation that they can be co-responsible in charting the way forward. From the very beginning of the apostolic exhortation, he connects the brashness of youth with the power of God and reminds the Church of what God has done and continues to do when young people are allowed to step up.
Why young people should be interested in this
They should. Not because it is a teaching from the Pope, but because the Pope is inviting them — and indeed, all of us
— to be co-responsible for the next steps, to co-create the kind of space where we can encounter and walk with one another and in a sense, to co-navigate with him and the leaders of the Church where to from here. Every young person who has ever complained about the Church now
has the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that the work of the synod continues in the dioceses and in their parishes and to make the work of the synod a reality in their own contexts.