Synod Father: Teach Life Issues With Greater Clarity Than Ever

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier warns against ideological colonization, while Cardinal Leonardo Sandri says young people in the East want clear, authentic teaching and radical witness.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

In his latest dispatch from the synod hall Oct. 17, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Australia, says the African participants are making “quite a splash” at this Synod. 

 “Cardinal Napier [archbishop of Durban, South Africa] spoke directly and with passion about how international governments, agencies and aid organizations continue to colonize Africa, by imposing conditions on aid and by cultural interference regarding sexuality, marriage, contraception, abortion right up to birth, and so on. We must teach the young with greater clarity than ever, rather than collaborating by our inaction in a culture that encourages multiple abortions and more in young people’s lives. With St Paul VI interceding for us, we can form young people as apostles for life and love.

The Africans are making quite a splash at this Synod: they come from the fastest growing part of the Church; the average age of their believers is in the 20s; and their leaders are solid in the faith and optimistic. A black pope would make a striking figure! Go Catholic Africa!

Other points made in the second session of the 14th Congregation:

• every young person is ours; there is no in-group and out-group

• those responsible for the formation of seminarians and young religious must allow candidates space to discover themselves and God, to confirm and savor their vocation, even to make mistakes as they grow in prudence; must have pastoral experiences of those on the edge, the poor, small communities etc; must resist a new clericalism 

• responding to the screen-culture (rather than book-culture) of our young people... we must develop e-tools for lectio divina, catechesis, discernment 

• young Catholics in Christian minority countries need assistance to deal with discrimination, identity and diversity

Cardinal Sandri, the Prefect of the Oriental Congregation, said oriental youth want clear teaching, and authentic, radical witness even to death.

Cardinal Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, celebrated the initiatives of St John Paul II with youth, especially World Youth Day. There is now overwhelming evidence that WYD inspires new youth ministries in the host nation, and many vocations. WYD is commonly a defining moment in the conversion process of many young people. His Eminence quoted Australian research on the impact of WYD on the young.


This morning [Oct. 17] a bishop reminded us that St. Paul warned the young Timothy (2 Tim ch. 4) that the time would come (and now has come) “when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will surround themselves with teachers who only say what their itching ears want to hear. They will block their ears to the truth and turn aside to myths.” In these circumstances Paul charged him, as he does us today, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word, in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction... Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, work especially at evangelization, and discharge all the other duties of your ministry.”

Another bishop quoted Rabindranath Tagore, the Bard of Bengal: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Points made in the first Morning session today included:

• the process of moving young people from being objects of pastoral care to being subjects providing evangelization and care to their peers

• young people learn by doing as much as by hearing; works of justice and mercy embraced by many

• many young people grow up in broken families and are emotional-spiritual orphans, so our parishes more than ever must be families that welcome them; once received they can be co-responsible for mission

• too many university students lapse in faith and practice; parents may not be able to do much about this; we must invest more of our energies into engaging them

• after a long absence from the Church, some young people return: what can we do to ensure more of them do? Catechesis, pilgrimages, encounters aimed at young adults

• we could do more to turn the new media to the service of the Gospel; young can show us how

• Youcat and Docat could be more widely dispersed and used

• need young catechists and reliable on-line evangelization and catechesis; “the new media is the agora of our time” (Benedict XVI) and so much is possible; but many web pages and blogs are extreme or falsify Catholic teaching, so young people need approved sources 

• African youth need access to education and that education must address civics, dignity of women, importance and limitations of politics, anti-corruption

One bishop said this Year of Youth has challenged Church leaders to make more opportunities for young people to lead and serve. We are challenged by St Paul: ‘Let no-one despise you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.’ (1 Tim 4:12).”


From Oct. 16 General Congregation (13th)

“The Cross is God’s love-letter to humanity. Yet the IL hardly mentions Christ crucified. The call to “take up the cross and follow” is made by [the young man] Christ to [mostly young] apostles with a child placed in front of them as an example of [youthful] trust; the final document must echo Christ’s call.

Bishops from Congo, Mali, Malawi, Senegal, Mauritius and Ethiopia spoke both of the youthful energy and the suffering of young Catholics in some parts of Africa. They identified their zeal for Christ despite hardships, even persecution, the challenges of getting education, and their initiatives to create meaningful work, enterprise, and integral development. The ⛪ tries to assist such initiatives through providing schooling, tertiary education, microcredit, moral and social teaching, chaplaincy and groups such as YCW and LoM. Such projects help reduce mass migration, poverty, isolation and disorientation. 

The Archbishop of Teheran of the Chaldees spoke of “the Church tormented” in the Middle East and the beauty of young people continuing to worship even amidst such dangers. 

An Indian bishop spoke of the persecution of young Christians in parts of India, gang rapes (including of his niece, a nun) and martyrdoms (he told a very moving story of a young man who refused to deny Christ as he was slowly killed by a fundamentalist gang). This has been the seed of new Christians. 

A Vietnamese bishop described a Church in which 90% of youth practice the faith and 2m+ are members of the Viet Eucharistic Youth Movement [we have thousands in Sydney alone]. This movement combines social, catechetical and prayer life, demonstrates what is possible.

Two bishops from Nigeria told how their young people are “incurable optimists” and strongly attached to their families. But they can be easy prey to prosperity Gospel preachers, forces undermining the family, and pressures to migrate.

Synod Fathers, experts and youth suggested that:

• we need some pastors who smell not of the sheep but of the lambs!

• but many bishops conferences, dioceses and parish underinvest in youth ministry

• the ⛪️ must be anchored in this world but have its focus on eternity; signs like poverty, chastity, obedience, works of prayer and charity, speak of this eschatological horizon

• our document needs a much fuller treatment of the proclamation of the kerygma (Łódź)

• our response to the unsatisfying diet offered young people by modernity must be to cultivate in them attitudes and practices of prayer, devotion and worship, and to call them to heroic lives of sanctity by our own example

• the need to form young consciences well, confident that truth, beauty and goodness are real, objective, and found in Christ; love heals wounds, transcends egoism, allows genuine growth 

• youth are waiting to hear from us a strong and clear restatement of the Scriptural-Catholic understanding of marriage and family

• unless the Synod has something to say to the mass migration of youth from Africa its document will be irrelevant to at least one continent 

• Oriental churches benefit from married clergy

• the Catholic school is the ⛪️ for many youth

• participants in the Neocatechumenal Way [Neocats] and its seminaries [Neokittens] undertake an itinerary of kerygma, conversion, catechesis and mission; their families have heard our now-St. Paul VI’s call to generous family sizes and to announce the Gospel to the world

One young Italian woman told how she had left the practice of the faith after Confirmation like so many youth. After a great grief she rediscovered the love of God and joined the ‘New Horizon’ movement. Her community seeks out young people in various ‘hot spots.’ She recommended some strategically placed parishes be entrusted to movements, families, women; and that seminaries must be drastically reimagined.

Another young woman from Cameroon described a very different reality of poverty, witchcraft, sex addiction, disorder. Through the brothers of the Emmanuel Community she discovered the perfume of holiness which was so attractive. She is driven to prayer, community, mission in her new life. 

As a reward for another long day of Synodding, I will tonight go out with the Sydney seminarians and young priests studying in Rome.”