The importance of welcoming young people just as they are, accompanying them on their emotional and spiritual pilgrimage, and giving them a zest and joy for life were just some of the final recommendations coming from the Pontifical Council for Culture’s plenary meeting on the theme “Emerging Youth Cultures.”
The four-day meeting which ended today was aimed at helping the Church to better understand today’s young people in an attempt to evangelize them better.
The “question of youth” is a challenging one for the Church, the Pontifical Council said, because, among other things, of the evident difficulty in transmitting the faith.
“So in an attempt to produce good, evangelization practices, we need a good vision for the transformation of culture and society, problems of the family, intergenerational conflicts, and more generally, how the young generation today lives and enters into a relationship with such social change.”
“Listening to the new generations and considering their condition, therefore, is a precious opportunity and a requirement for adults and for the Christian community,” the Council said.
As part of the proceedings, an Italian rock band called The Sun performed a number of songs in front of assembled cardinals, bishops and other distinguished guests.The group sang about their Catholic faith, performing pieces such as “Onda Perfetta” (“Perfect Wave”) that says: “I have a whole world full of hopes and dreams, they’re illusions only if you don’t believe.”
Bishop Carlos Alberto Azevedo, an official at the Pontifical Council for Culture, noted that in today’s society, “youthfulness has now become a myth, or an imperative in the social horizon of eternal youth, even if young people are generally excluded from economic life, forced into social misery, and welcomed with difficulty in Christian communities.”
Or, as Fr. Amando Matteo, a plenary participant and professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, put it: “We live in a time where adults love being young, rather than love the young.”
Bishop Azevedo concluded the meeting by offering the following proposals and recommendations for Christian communities:
* Welcome the young with open arms as they are, without prejudice and moralistic judgments;
* Be a listening place to share experiences of real discomfort, to generate sympathetic understanding of the complexity of situations; be a space for discussion and dialogue on the reasons for living, offering "life in abundance" as a goal;
* Accompany in the emotional, cultural, spiritual and religious pilgrimage of the new generations; be present with them in universities, in networks, in neighborhoods, in places where young people are, so that you accompany them into adulthood, not keeping them in youth;
* Witness, with courage and joy, the presence of God in simple life, in daily life;
* Give confidence and future horizons to young people, in the face of a society blind and deaf to their needs;
* Offer them words and especially stories that can re-enchant the world ... such as real alternatives of hope, capable of giving life to projects that exceed the resistance of the present;
* Give back joy and zest for life, be able to celebrate with simple means;
* Be available and equipped to support the inner journey, be a spiritual reference that can confront the drama of the human condition and its limitations, as well as to open the doors of faith, starting with contemplation, silence and prayer;
* Welcome the knowledge and skills of young people, their prophetic contribution, for the good of the world, stripped of superfluities, open to the wonder of a serene life, conscious of a global common and ecological good, without exclusion and forms of marginalization;
* Offer integration into the community through a deep fraternal relationship, and generate a new culture, a new way of life.
+ Carlos Alberto Azevedo
The Council is to issue a press release next week, but in the meantime published a series of tweets from participants over the past four days, givng an idea of the concerns and issues discussed. Here is a selection of them:
- “A crucial issue today is the juvenilization of society ... adults who do not want to be adults, bodies that refuse to grow old.”
- “I think older people are tempted to compete with the young (also in politics).”
- “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, lighten your heart in the days of your youth.” Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
- “Has the model of the father as the lawmaker, the depositary of authority, entitled to sanction, been dissolved?”
- “As generations enter into competition among themselves, so society becomes sterile.”
- “The young generation is tolerant, confident, open-minded, and ambitious but also cynical, lonely, and anxious.”
- “Exaltation of youth, denigration of old age, concealment of death.”
- “I dream of a world where its youth make independent, conscious choices of faith.”
Pope Benedict XVI's Message
The report from VIS on the Holy Father’s address to the Plenary participants:
POPE: YOUTH CONDITIONS AND CULTURE, INESCAPABLE POINT OF REFERENCE FOR PASTORAL OUTREACH
Vatican City, 7 February 2013 (VIS) This morning, Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which has the theme of "Emerging Youth Cultures". The Pope expressed his hopes that their work will be fruitful and contribute to "the Church's work in the lives of young people, which is a complex and articulated reality that can no longer be understood from within a homogeneous cultural basis but only in a horizon … that is made up of a plurality of viewpoints, perspectives, and strategies."
The Pope then spoke of the "widespread climate of instability" that is affecting the cultural, political, and economic areas noting in the latter, the difficulty of young persons to find employment that has psychological and relational repercussions. "The uncertainty and fragility that characterize so many young people often pushes them to the margins, making them almost invisible and absent from society's cultural and historical processes. … The affective and emotional sphere, … strongly affected by this climate … gives birth to apparently contradictory phenomena like the spectacularization of private life and a narcissistic selfishness. Even the religious dimension, the experience of faith and membership in the Church are often lived from an individualistic and emotional perspective."
"Nevertheless, positive data are not lacking, such as volunteering, "profound and sincere faith experiences, … the efforts undertaken, in many parts of the world, to build societies capable of respecting the freedom and dignity of others, beginning with the smallest and weakest. All of this," he emphasized, "consoles us and helps us to draw a more accurate and objective picture of youth cultures. We cannot, therefore, be content with reading the cultural phenomena of the youth according to consolidated paradigms, paradigms that have become cliches. Nor can we analyse them in ways that are no longer useful, that are based on outdated and inadequate cultural categories. Ultimately, we are facing a very complex but fascinating reality that must be thoroughly understood and loved with great empathy, a reality wherein we must pay very close attention to the bottom lines and to what is to come."
The Pope referred to the youth of many Third World countries that, with their cultures and needs, represent "a challenge to the global consumer society and to the culture of established privileges, which benefit a small group of the population of the Western world. Consequently, youth cultures are also 'emerging', in the sense that they demonstrate a profound need, a cry for help, or even a 'provocation' that cannot be ignored or neglected either by civil society or by the ecclesial community."
Benedict XVI repeated his concerns for the so-called "educational emergency", which accompanies the other emergencies affecting the different dimensions of the human person and our fundamental relationships "as the growing difficulties in the labour market or in the effort over time to be faithful to responsibilities assumed. From this would follow, for the future of the world and of all of humanity, a not merely economic and social impoverishment, but a human and spiritual one as well. If the young no longer hope or progress, if they don't put their energy, their vitality, and their capacity for anticipating the future into the dynamic of history, then we will find ourselves a humanity that is locked in itself, lacking confidence and a positive attitude toward the future."
"Although we are aware of the many problematic situations, which also touch upon the spheres of faith and membership in the Church, we wish to renew our faith in the young and reaffirm that the Church looks to their condition and their cultures as an essential and inescapable reference point for pastoral outreach. … The Church has confidence in the young. She hopes in them and in their energy. She needs their vitality in order to continue living the mission entrusted to her by Christ with renewed enthusiasm. I very much hope, therefore, that the Year of Faith will be, also for the younger generations, a precious opportunity to rediscover and strengthen the friendship with Christ from which springs the joy and enthusiasm to profoundly change cultures and societies."