“The church is not a moral institution”

Before the Synod of Bishops on the subject of youth, the Archdiocese of Cologne wants to enter into dialogue with young people. Interview: Cardinal Woelki on his expectations and the role of the Church in the reality of young people's lives.

Interviewer: Did the convening of a youth synod by Pope Francis come as a surprise to you?

Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki (Archbishop of Cologne): I had rather expected that the Pope would put questions of synodality and the responsibility of the national bishops' conferences in the center of a new synod of bishops. In this respect, I was actually surprised when he announced that he wanted to talk about the situation of young people. But I agree very much.

Interviewer: In the run-up to the synod there is a survey, the archdiocese of Cologne even wants to create its own questionnaire. Why?

Woelki: The questions we have received have been of a more general nature. So questions about youth pastoral care and the facilities we have. The actual questioning of the young people is to start in May. We ame that the questions are asked against the universal church background and thus do not necessarily speak the language of the young people here locally. Therefore, with our diocesan youth pastor, we have installed a group of young people who will translate what is coming from Rome into appropriate language suitable for young people. So we want to see which inquiries come from Rome and then offer and ask questions that are of interest to us here in the diocese. We want to give young people a voice here in the archdiocese and work with them to shape the future of the church.

Interviewer: It is, after all, a question of what role the church and faith still play in the lives of young people, or?

Woelki: Young people ask how their lives can succeed, what makes their lives good and happy. Young people usually have a high set of values, they ask questions about social justice, about peace. They generally reject war and violence. It is also about where there is support and orientation. And if we engage in conversation with young people, we can help them find answers for their lives, answers that the Gospel and the faith of the Church offer.

Interviewer: At the Synod on the Family, the public focus was on a few specific irritant topics; young people will also address ies such as sexuality and partnership. It is to be feared that there will be a gap between the life of the young people and what the church pretends as the norm, or?

Woelki: First of all, it is important that young people can express their views and that we as a church perceive that. I believe that there has always been a divide, it's not new. The church, however, is not a moral institution, but wants to offer help from its experience, its faith and the gospel on how life can succeed, questions of fidelity, partnership and love are important questions that concern everyone. These questions have a foundation in the Gospel, and we will enter into conversation and dialogue about them at eye level. In the last one, we have to see if our answers are convincing and accepted.

The interview was conducted by Jan Hendrik Stens.

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Christina Cherry
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