Pope Francis, in his line of opening the doors of the Church and announcing the Gospel of Joy to the whole world, has convoked the Synod of Bishops with the theme: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment“. On January 13, 2017, a preparatory document for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was published under this title.
The obvious questions are: “The Synod: what is it? how does it work? what is it for?”
The term synod comes from two Greek terms: syn (together) and yhodos (way), and expresses the idea of “walking together”. In the Vatican there are several organisms that form the Roman Curia and are in charge of the government of the Church in different sectors and spheres. But there was a concern to have a structure where there was representation of the universal church as an assembly of bishops from all over the world to help the Pope in the governance of the Church with his council. And so, Pope Paul VI, on September 15, 1965, created the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution directly dependent on the Pope.
The Synod of the Bishops meets when the Pope convokes it and with the theme that he proposes for study, analysis, debate and consultation. It is presided over by the Pope and has a long process of preparation so that the working document, which is called “Instrumentum laboris” and is the basis for discussion at the Synod, may be the fruit of a broad consultation with the whole Church.
A Synod about, for and with youth: Pope Francis has already carried out two Synods: the Synod on the new evangelization and the Synod on the family. His proposal is that God’s plan for men and women of all times should reach the whole world and all areas of life, without exception. And that is why this third Synod that convenes invites us to question ourselves on how to accompany young people on the journey of faith, in their life decisions, and also to ask young people themselves to help identify the best ways today to announce the Good News.
Roadmap: with the publication of the Preparatory Document on January 13, 2017, the consultation phase opens. It intends to involve all those who represent the youth sector of the Church, those in charge of Youth and Vocation Ministry, parishes, Religious Institutes, Ecclesial and Youth Movements, dioceses, national and continental assemblies… Meetings, congresses, meetings from which proposals for the Synod arise are convoked. A web page was also created (http://www.synod2018.va/content/synod2018.html) to follow the whole process, to participate in debates and to elaborate a Survey for all the young people, between ages 16 and 29, who want to participate. The idea is to reach all young people, believers or not, from any culture, religion or background.
Once all the information, proposals and surveys have been gathered, the Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document) will be elaborated before May 2018, which will be discussed at the Synod from October 3 to 18, 2018. The work done during the Synod will be gathered in a document of Acts of the Synod, which will be given to the Pope and with which he will later elaborate a document that will be published under the name of Apostolic Exhortation (it is the publication that gathers what was treated in the Synod of Bishops).
INITIAL TEXT OF THE INTRODUCTION TO THE PREPARATORY DOCUMENT FOR THE SYNOD OF THE YOUTH
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be perfect” (Jn 15:11): this is God’s plan for men and women of all times and, therefore, also for all the young men and women of the third millennium, without exception.
Announcing the joy of the Gospel is the mission that the Lord has entrusted to his Church. The Synod on the New Evangelization and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium dealt with how to carry out this mission in today’s world; instead, the two Synods on the family and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia were dedicated to accompanying families towards this joy.
As a continuation of this journey, through a new synodal journey on the theme: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment”, the Church has decided to ask itself how to accompany young people so that they recognize and accept the call to love and life in fullness, and also to ask the young people themselves to help identify the most effective ways of announcing the Good News today. Through the young people, the Church will be able to perceive the voice of the Lord that resounds also today. As in other times Samuel (cf. 1Sam 3,1-21) and Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1,410), there are young people who know how to distinguish the signs of our time that the Spirit points out. Listening to their aspirations we can glimpse the world of tomorrow that is approaching and the ways that the Church is called to travel”.
Águeda Mariño Rico, csd
Congregation of Santo Domingo