listeners at the youth synod © Stefano dal Pozzolo (CBA)
In contrast to the family synod, some expected little from the youth synod. You could be wrong. While much is still vague so far, pressing ies exist. And not only the pope wants to learn from the youth.
Dialogue with youth at eye level seems serious to Francis: When he took the stage over the weekend to answer questions from young people, he did not turn to the front of the hall, where some 5.500 participants hanging on his lips. Instead, he speaks sideways to the back: About 100 young women and men are sitting there, some of whom had previously asked questions.
Once again, Francis puts aside prepared script, speaks freely. At the two-hour synod kickoff Saturday night, the directors do all they can to dispel criticism that youth don't get a say at the Youth Synod, even when there's no discussion among themselves.
There will be music and dance performances as well as personal reports about experiences as a petty criminal in Italian prisons, as a refugee from Iraq, experiences with Internet pornography, drugs or cancer.
Always also about how chaplains and faith helped to get out of the misery. "The Italians can do that," says a visitor from north of the Alps, "but for me and our sober culture, it's rather nothing". A group of 15-year-olds from Gaeta, south of Rome, on the other hand, is enthusiastic: "Great – very touching …". The kids belong to one of the spiritual communities or schools invited to the celebration in the Vatican audience hall. When the pope later denounces scandals and clericalism in the church, they clap loudly.
"M-word" is not bypassed
Controversial topics are called by their names at the synod right from the start. They were also inculcated into synod participants by demonstrations around the Vatican on the opening day. For hardly anyone it is conceivable to avoid the "M-word". But it is also clear that abuse and cover-up is not the only ie – the synod working document, which is being worked through step by step, mentions enough other aspects.
Possible focal points and controversies were slow to emerge in the first few days: In addition to sexual assault and its concealment in the church, these include: Migration, participation of women in the Church, sexuality and gender ies, forms and evaluation of vocation, accompaniment of young people and their autonomy.
Whatever favors abuse and cover-up must be changed, demands BDKJ chairman Thomas Andonie, who speaks as a guest speaker from Germany for young people before the synod's general assembly. He also pleads to think about the role of women, the ie of sexual morality, as well as the accompaniment of young people.
Microphone turned off
U.S. Archbishop Charles Chaput urges care in wording about sexuality in church documents; the abbreviation "LGBT" does not belong to it. Austria's youth bishop Stephan Turnovszky calls during a sermon for the church to listen carefully and differentiate on the ie of sexuality, which is important to young people.
Bangui's Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga criticized to journalists that young Africans fleeing to Europe were "sometimes treated like animals". Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, asked about the topic of migration, carefully points out the different tasks of the church and the state.
In the synod hall, a cardinal had to swallow right at the beginning when his microphone was turned off after the allotted four minutes.
Not everyone is used to that. In addition, the pope has ordered three minutes of silence after every five speeches – an opportunity to carefully reflect on what has been heard. The discernment he has always urged is "not a fashionable term of this pontificate" but an important spiritual method.
Time to get to know each other
It is still a matter of analysis and getting to know one another. This is not difficult in the small group of eleven German-speaking participants. In addition to Bishops Felix Genn, Reinhard Marx, Stephan Oster and Johannes Wubbe, as well as BDKJ Chairman Andonie and Jesuit Clemens Blattert from Germany, its members include: Vienna's Archbishop Christoph Schonborn as well as Youth Bishop Turnovszky, his Swiss colleague Alain de Raemy and Curia Cardinal Kurt Koch. The Bishop of Pilsen (Plzen), Tomas Holub, joined the discussion. Genn moderates the group, as Relator Oster summarizes the results of the discussion.
After the analysis, the task from Tuesday afternoon will be to evaluate the findings from a Christian perspective. In the third week, concrete consequences and a final document are to be formulated. This could still be exciting, especially if the synod fathers manage to focus their concerns.