Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Dear Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies,
dear brothers and sisters, dear young people:
Entering this classroom to talk about young people, you already feel the strength of your presence, which conveys a positivity and enthusiasm capable of flooding and filling with joy, not only this classroom but the whole Church and the whole world.
For this reason, I can’t start without telling you “thank you” first. Thanks to those who are present here, thanks to so many people who, along a two-year preparation path – here in the Church of Rome and in all the churches of the world – have worked with dedication and passion so that we could reach this moment. Thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, the Delegated Presidents, Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, Rapporteur-general, to Archbishop Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary; General Secretariat officials and assistants; thank you to all of you Synod Parents, Auditors, Auditors, Experts and Consultants; fraternal delegates; translators, singers, journalists. Thank you from the heart of everyone for your active and fruitful participation.
A sense of “thank you” deserves the two special secretaries, Father Giacomo Costa, Jesuit, and Don Rossano Sala, Salesian, who have worked generously with commitment and selflessness. They left their skin in preparation.
I would also like to send a deep thanks to the young people who are connected to us at this time, and to all the young people who have in different ways made their voices heard. I thank you for betting that it is worth feeling part of the Church, or to enter into dialogue with her; It is worth having the Church as a mother, as a teacher, as a home, as a family, and who, despite human weaknesses and difficulties, is able to shine and transmit the enduring message of Christ; it is worth clinging to the Church’s boat which, even through the terrible storms of the world, continues to offer everyone refuge and hospitality; it is worth it that we put ourselves in an attitude of listening to each other; it is worth swimming against the current and linking to the greatest values: family, fidelity, love, faith, sacrifice, service, eternal life.
Our responsibility in the Synod is not to deny them, more than to show that they were right to gamble: it’s really worth it, it’s really not a waste of time.
And I especially thank you, dear young people here. The path of preparation for the Synod has taught us that the youth universe is so varied that it cannot be fully represented, but you are indeed an important sign of it. His participation fills us with joy and hope.
The Synod we’re living in is a time for participation. I would therefore like, at this beginning of the itinerary of the Synodal Assembly, to invite everyone to speak courageously and parresia, that is to say by integrating freedom, truth and charity. Only dialogue makes us grow. Honest and transparent criticism is constructive and useful, while vain talk, rumors, suspicions or prejudices are not.
And to courage in speaking must correspond humility in listening. He said to young people at the presinodal meeting: “If the one I don’t like speaks, I must listen more, because everyone has the right to be heard, as everyone has the right to speak.” This frank listening requires courage to take the floor and become a spokesperson for so many young people in the world who are not present. This listening is the one that opens up space for dialogue. The Synod should be an exercise in dialogue, first of all, among those who participate in it. And the first fruit of this dialogue is that everyone opens up to novelty, to change their own opinion thanks to what they have heard from others. This is important for the Synod. Many of you have already prepared your intervention before coming – and I thank you for this work – but I invite you to feel free to consider what you have prepared as a provisional draft open to any integrations and modifications that the synodal path will suggest to each of you. Let us be free to welcome and understand others and therefore to change our convictions and positions: it is a sign of great human and spiritual maturity.
The Synod is an ecclesial exercise of discernment. Frankness in speaking and openness in listening are essential for the Synod to be a process of discernment. Discernment is not an advertising slogan, it is not an organizational technique, and not even a fashion of this pontificate, but an inner attitude that is rooted in an act of faith. Discernment is the method and at the same time the objective that we propose: it is based on the conviction that God is acting in the history of the world, on the events of life, on the people I meet and who speak to me. That is why we are called to put ourselves in an attitude of listening to what the Spirit suggests to us, in ways and in often unpredictable directions. Discernment needs spaces and times. That is why I provide that, during the work, in the plenary assembly and in the groups, every five interventions, a moment of silence – of approximately three minutes – should be observed to allow each to pay attention to the resonance that the things he has heard appear in his heart, to deepen and accept what has interested him most. This interest in interiority is the key to walking the path of recognizing, interpreting and choosing.
We are a sign of a Church listening to and on the way. The attitude of listening cannot be limited to the words we address in synod works. The path of preparation for this moment has shown a Church “with a debt of listening”, also in relation to young people, who often do not feel understood in their originality by the Church and therefore not sufficiently accepted by what they are really, and sometimes even rejected. This Synod has the opportunity, the task and the duty to be a sign of the Church that is truly listened to, which is allowed to be challenged by the instances of those with whom it meets, which does not always have an already prepared and pre-conditioned response. A Church that does not listen is closed to novelty, closed to God’s surprises, and will not be credible, particularly for young people, who inevitably turn away rather than approach.
Let’s run away from prejudice and stereotypes. A first step in the direction of listening is to free our minds and hearts from prejudices and stereotypes: when we think we already know who the other is and what it wants, then it becomes really difficult to hear it seriously. Relationships between generations are a terrain in which prejudices and stereotypes take root with proverbial ease, without often even realizing it. Young people are tempted to regard adults as old-fashioned; adults are tempted to classify young people as inexperienced, to know what they are like, and above all how they should be and behave. All of this can become a major obstacle to dialogue and encounter between generations. Most of those present do not belong to the young people’s generation, so it is clear that we must monitor to avoid above all the risk of talking about young people from categories and mental schemes that are already overcome. If we can avoid this risk, then we can help make an alliance between generations possible. Adults should overcome the temptation to underestimate the capacities of young people and judge them negatively. I read once that the first mention of this fact dates back to 3 000 a.C. and was found in a clay vessel of ancient Babylon, where it is written that youth is immoral and that young people are not able to save the culture of the people. It’s an old tradition of us old people. Young people, on the other hand, should overcome the temptation not to listen to adults and to regard the elderly as “something old, past and boring,” forgetting that it is absurd to always want to start from scratch, as if life started only with each of them. In reality, the elders, despite their physical fragility, always remain as the memory of our humanity, the roots of our society, the “pulse” of our civilization.
Despising them, detaching themselves from them, locking them in isolated reserves or ignoring them is a sign of transfer to the mentality of the world that is devouring our homes from within. Neglecting the treasure of the experiences each generation receives in inheritance and transmits to the next is an act of self-destruction.
On the one hand, it is necessary to overcome with decision the plague of clericalism. Indeed, listening and escaping stereotypes is also a powerful antidote to the risk of clericalism, to which an assembly like this is inevitably exposed, beyond the intentions of each of us. It arises from an elitist and exclusionary vision of vocation, which interprets the received ministry as a power to be exercised without more than as a free and generous service to offer; and this leads us to believe that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen or learn anything, or does like that it listens. Clericalism is a perversion and is the root of many evils in the Church: we must humbly ask forgiveness for them and, above all, create the conditions not to repeat them.
On the other hand, however, it is necessary to cure the virus of self-sufficiency and the hasty conclusions of many young people. An Egyptian proverb says, “If there is no old man in your house, buy it, because it will come in handy.” Repudiating and rejecting everything that has been transmitted over the centuries only leads to the dangerous loss that unfortunately is threatening our humanity; leads to the state of disappointment that has gripped the hearts of entire generations. The accumulation, throughout history, of human experiences is the most valuable and trustworthy treasure that generations receive from each other, never forgetting divine revelation, which enlightens and gives meaning to history and our existence.
Brothers and sisters: May the Synod awaken our hearts. The present, also that of the Church, appears full of jobs, problems, and burdens. But faith tells us that it is also kairos, in which the Lord comes to meet us to love us and call us to the fullness of life. The future is not a threat to be feared, but the time the Lord promises us so that we can experience communion with him, with our brothers and sisters, and with all creation. We need to rediscover the reasons for our hope and above all pass them on to young people, who thirst for hope, as the Second Vatican Council rightly stated: “We can think, rightly, that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are able to pass on to generations to come reasons to live and to wait” (Cost. Past., Gaudium et spes, 31).
The encounter between generations can be extremely fruitful in generating hope. The prophet Joel teaches them to us—I also reminded the youth of the presinodal meeting—in which I consider the prophecy of our time: “Your elders will have dreams, and their youth will see visions” (3:1), and prophesy.
There is no need for sophisticated theological arguments to show our duty to help the contemporary world walk into the kingdom of God, without false hope and without seeing only ruins and problems. Indeed, St John XXIII, speaking of the people who value the facts without sufficient objectivity or prudent judgment, said: “They see not in modern times but prevarication and ruin; they say that our time, compared to the past, has been getting worse; and behave as if they had learned nothing from history, which remains a teacher of life” (Address given for the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council, 11 October 1962).
Therefore, we must not be tempted by “prophecies of misfortunes”, nor expend energies in “taking account of failures and throwing bitterness”, we must keep our eyes fixed on good, which “often makes no noise, is not the subject of blogs or appears on the first pages”, and not be frightened “in the face of the wounds of the flesh of Christ , always caused by sin and often by the children of the Church” (cf. Address to the Bishops participating in the course promoted by the Congregation for Bishops and for the Eastern Churches, 13 September 2018).
Let us commit ourselves to seek to “frequent the future”, and to come out of this Synod not only a document – which is generally read by few and criticized by many – but above all concrete pastoral proposals, capable of carrying out the task of the Synod itself, which is to make dreams germine, arouse prophecies and visions, make hopes flourish, stimulate confidence , bandage wounds, weave relationships, resurrect an dawn of hope, learn from each other, and create a positive imaginary that enlightens minds, burns hearts, gives strength to hands, and inspires young people – without exception – the vision of a future full of the joy of the gospel. Thank you. Ω