St Eugene’s Cathedral
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On 6 October 2016, the Holy Father announced the theme of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment" which will take place in Rome from 3rd to 28th October 2018.
The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world, gathered with the Holy Father, to share their wisdom, information and experiences in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have a universal validity and application.
The President of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, and Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry, chair of the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, will represent the Irish bishops at this Synod.
During their Summer 2018 Meeting, the Irish Bishops discussed preparations for the Synod noting that this is an important time for youth ministry in Ireland. Bishops met with representatives of youth ministry from around the country to discuss key themes arising from a web-based consultation with young people, involving 2,500 respondents, and which was undertaken in preparation for the forthcoming meeting of the Synod of Bishops. The discussion highlighted positive examples and obstacles facing young people, such as:
– young people face many challenges including peer pressure, mental health issues and from social media;
– young people are passionate about justice, equality and fairness, and desire to be listened to even when their opinions are not in line with Church teaching;
– many young people want to learn, experience and have a greater role in their faith, but sometimes struggle in achieving this; and
– the positive experiences of chaplaincy services, pilgrimages and other dedicated national and international youth encounter events.
Bishops agreed that a group of young adults, representing many aspects of youth culture, would meet with bishops during the World Meeting of Families in August to develop further discussion on these issues.
The work of the Synod began with the drafting of the Preparatory Document (DP), which was published on 13 January 2017, together with a "Letter to young people" by the Holy Father. The DP included a Questionnaire, mainly addressed to Bishops' Conferences, to the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and to other ecclesial bodies, with fifteen questions for everybody and three specific questions for each continent, as well as a request to share three "best practices".
From 11 to 15 September 2017, an International Seminar on the Condition of Youth in the World took place, with the participation of many experts and young people, that helped focus on the situation of young people today from a scientific standpoint.
Besides these initiatives, aimed at involving the entire Church, there have been several opportunities to listen to the voice of young people themselves, so as to make them key players right from the very beginning. First of all, a multilingual Online Questionnaire was prepared and translated by several Bishops' Conferences, and replies were received from more than one hundred thousand young people. The wealth of material collected is remarkable. Next, the Pre-synodal meeting took place (Rome, 19-24 March 2018), ending on Palm Sunday, when a Final Document was delivered to the Holy Father. About three hundred young people from five continents participated, as well as fifteen thousand more through social media. This event, which was the expression of the Church's wish to listen to all young people, without exception, garnered a great deal of attention.
The material collected through these four main sources – together with the "Remarks" that were sent directly to the General Secretariat of the Synod – is certainly quite extensive. With the support of several experts, it was thoroughly analyzed, meticulously summarized and then presented in this "Working Document", that was approved by the XIV Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in the presence of the Holy Father.
This text is arranged in three parts and addresses the themes in a way that reflects the program of the Synod Assembly in October, based on the discernment method: Part I, under the heading "recognizing", brings together, in five chapters with different perspectives, a variety of situations in which we listen to reality and take stock of the situation of young people; Part II, under the heading "interpreting", provides in four chapters some interpretative keys for the decisive issues submitted to the Synod for discernment; Part III, geared towards "choosing", gathers different elements in four chapters, to help Synod Fathers decide on what directions to follow and which decisions to make.
The text ends with a significant focus on the theme of holiness, for the Synod Assembly to recognize this as "the most attractive face of the Church" (Gaudete et Exsultate, 9) and to be able to communicate it to all young people today.