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Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Theology

"Towards the Youth Synod".

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 12:30:00 +0000 Posted in Religion Confidential

The preparatory document for the 2018 Synod on "young people, faith and vocational discernment" is addressed primarily to bishops and other ecclesiastical authorities. The Pope also wanted to give it to young people as a "compass" for this journey of the synod (cf. Letter to Young People, 13-I-2017).

In the introduction, he proposes "to accompany young people so that they may recognize and accept the call to love and to life in fullness", and also to ask young people to "help identify the most effective ways to proclaim the Good News today". To understand and describe the vocational experience, he proposes to look especially at the figure of the Apostle John.

Interesting is the appeal of the principle of a life in fullness for young people, in contrast to the molds in which they are often made uniform, to turn them into meek lambs that follow the snake charmers who only seek to exploit them in the service of a "system" that does not financial aid them precisely to achieve that life, in fullness of beauty and joy, in which they dream without forgetting that it costs effort.

Following a theological-pastoral methodology, the document begins with a look at the socio-cultural reality of young people in today's world. From there it addresses the central questions: faith, discernment, vocation. Thirdly, it proposes to orient pastoral action, especially with a view to promoting vocations among young people.

The world in which young people find themselves today - a plurality of cultures with certain differences - is a rapidly changing world. It is characterized by fluidity and uncertainty (due to the vulnerability and insecurity of large sectors of the population). We are in a scientistic culture, dominated by a technocratic paradigm and the quest for short-term profit deadline that give rise to a throwaway culture. A multicultural and multi-religious society offers opportunities and risks: opportunities for discussion and mutual enrichment and risks of disorientation and relativism.

In the eyes of faith," the document affirms, "this is seen as a sign of our times that requires a growth in the culture of listening, respect and dialogue". This is so as not to fall into one of the extremes: on the one hand, the aforementioned relativism, on the other hand, fundamentalism, which can be linked to various forms of fideism and fundamentalism.

In what follows we will focus only on the first section of the document, i.e. how the new generations are characterized and how they can be helped.

We find ourselves at framework of a globalization that, on the one hand, tends to homogenize young people, while at the same time institutional and, above all, cultural peculiarities (i.e., characteristics specific to each person, family, or group) persist in them. These peculiarities are being lost in the "second generations" of migrants or in the children of couples that are in some way "mixed" (from an ethnic, cultural and/or religious point of view).

On the contrary, one might think that young people benefit from treasuring the peculiarities that we perhaps see in our grandparents, in those who stayed in the land or homeland of origin, in those who keep the history of our culture. In this sense, it is striking that, for example, the "appellation of origin" is so much appreciated for things that we value good with the palate.

How will the tree grow if it is disconnected from its roots? If they lose the peculiarities of families and local cultures, young people risk losing that report of their own identity so necessary for the discernment of the path to follow, on the staff or social level. This is particularly serious if we consider, as the analysis points out, the particularly harsh conditions in which many children and young people live.

Among the characteristics of today's young people, the text points out a diverse availability for participation and mobilization, which places them between two extremes: the passive and discouraged (often more concerned with their own image and perhaps conformist) on the one hand, and, on the other, the enterprising and vital, depending on the experiences and opportunities that each one has had. Especially important are the figures of reference letter and the style of the Education received in the family.

Tendentially cautious, it is noted, today's young people are particularly distrustful of institutions. This is true, and there is nothing strange about it, considering that they are children or grandchildren of a culture of suspicion and at the same time victims of a society in a crisis of values. With this panorama, it is not strange that they live on the margins of religion or seek alternative religious experiences, trying to make them compatible with the consumerist and individualistic offerings of the dominant culture.

At the same time, modern technologies influence, for better and for worse, the conception of the world, of reality and of interpersonal relationships.

In this rather tangled status , how can we help young people to shape their life trajectories and make the right choices? The text proposes the need for adequate cultural, social and spiritual tools, which become "indispensable so that the decision-making mechanisms do not become blocked and end up, perhaps for fear of making mistakes, suffering the change [this cultural change] instead of guiding it". And quotation a fundamental exhortation of Pope Francis that goes directly against conformism, also of educators:

"How can we awaken the greatness and courage of far-reaching choices, of impulses of the heart to face educational and affective challenges?". I have said the word so many times: risk! Take risks. He who does not risk does not walk. And if I am wrong, blessed be the Lord! You will make more mistakes if you stand still" (speech at Villa Nazareth, Rome, June 18, 2016).

We will have a better chance of getting it right if we look at the centrality that the person of Jesus occupies in the advertisement of faith, and at the precariousness in which many young people find themselves due to the above-mentioned factors.

All this demands of us "a greater capacity to respond to the challenge educational in its broadest sense", along the lines of the "educational emergency" pointed out by Benedict XVI (Message to the city and diocese of Rome on the urgency of Education, 21-I-2008).

Very true. This is why it is necessary, in the educational spheres and especially with regard to the Education of faith, to react urgently, to improve the quality of offers and services, to create networks to exchange knowledge and experiences, to promote, at the regional, national and international levels, teams of lucid and experienced educators, to establish discussion forums, to address globalization and the cultural differences mentioned above.

In this sense, the text points out, and there is no doubt about it, it is "urgent to promote the personal capacities by placing them at the service of a solid project of common growth". It is revealed core topic this centrality of the person, the service to its growth project .

Along these lines, we should add that it is especially important to detect "vocations for Education" and to promote concrete projects in educational institutions, with particular attention, we insist, to the area of the Education of the faith.

And it is important what the Pope said to young people in his letter on the occasion of the presentation of this text: "The Church wants to listen to your voice, your sensitivity, your faith, even your doubts and criticisms".

The document, as we have seen, also takes this up from the beginning: we must listen to young people and give them opportunities so that they themselves can guide these issues that affect them, since they often have a great capacity to propose and practice alternatives that show how the world or the Church could be.