“Giving a voice to those affected”

The Catholic bishops in Germany have high hopes for the synod in Rome planned for October on the topic of youth and vocation. According to youth bishop Stefan Oster, the discussion about abuse is closely linked to many topics of the synod.

"Many questions around the ie of abuse lead directly to the topics of the synod," Oster said Wednesday in Fulda. These challenges include the critical question of whether the church is still able to speak to young people – "for example, when it comes to questions of sexuality, homosexuality and partnership, which are so important for young people. Here, many bishops have tended for years and decades to speak down from above, Oster admitted self-critically.

The young people also signaled to him again and again, the Passau bishop said, that they are "looking for a credible and authentic church that stands in life, goes to the margins – and also gives more space to women". All these topics are also decisive for the church's ability to regain the trust lost as a result of the abuse cases.

Rethinking vocation

Bishop Felix Genn of Munster, who is responsible for vocation ies, said in Fulda that in Germany the concept of vocation must be rethought. Accompanying young people on the path of their vocation must also change, he said. Church youth work should be more closely linked to the question of vocation, as in other countries.

Genn stressed that vocation should not be limited to the "recruitment" of new clergy, it also concerns the decision for a life in marriage and family. The working paper for the upcoming Synod of Bishops also points in this direction.

Change structures, ways of working and behavior

Auxiliary Bishop Johannes Wubbe of Osnabruck said that never before had the voices of so many young people been included in the preparatory process for a Catholic Synod of Bishops. He recalled that the Vatican had sent out an online questionnaire and that there was a youth hearing in Germany in July 2017 and one in Rome in September 2017. Young people were also involved in the Roman presynod in March 2018, he said. At the synod itself, they could contribute to the working groups with their own contributions, among other things.

In recent weeks, several bishops from around the world have called for the cancellation of the Youth Synod in light of the current abuse crisis. Some participants had also personally announced that they would not come to Rome.

Bishops: cancellation of the youth synod would be a wrong signal

German bishops say demands are wrong. "That would be a wrong signal," said youth bishop Stefan Oster. "There is no better opportunity than now to address the ie of abuse, even there, where it is precisely about the young people in the Church".

From the perspective of Munster's Bishop Felix Genn, the synod can also provide an opportunity to openly discuss the ie of abuse at an important and crucial juncture in the universal Church. A refusal would destroy this chance. Genn went on to say that it was also important for him to address the problem of "spiritual abuse". By this he meant the tendency "to impose on the other my decision, which I believe to be right.". This would contradict the attitude of freedom, which must be respected here as well.

Cancellation would be met with incomprehension

Osnabruck Auxiliary Bishop Johannes Wubbe added: "It would be fatal to cancel now."His numerous conversations with young people in the run-up to the synod had shown him how great the hope was among many that important and also controversial topics would be discussed openly. A cancellation would only meet with incomprehension.

Oster, Genn and Wubbe will participate as representatives of the German Bishops' Conference in the Youth Synod on 3 and 4 June. to 28. October in the Vatican part. In addition, the conference chairman, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is participating as a participant directly appointed by Pope Francis. The world bishops' meeting is themed "Young people, faith and vocational discernment".

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