“The spontaneity of young people is surprising”

Online survey, symposium and a presynod. Rarely has a Synod of Bishops been so widely prepared as the Youth Synod in October. In an interview, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, gives an interim assessment.

CBA: They have already dealt a lot with the topics of the Youth Synod. Is there anything in the final document of the presynod at the end of March that still surprised you?

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops): I was surprised above all by the spontaneity with which the young people expressed themselves. The second important observation for me is how important family is to them. That may seem unusual. Yet, on their way to independence, many young people feel alone. So they seek support, often from their parents first. What's more, I'm amazed at their sense of community – whether it's at school, home, clubs or church.

On their way into the future, young people want to be accompanied. This is a key to understanding them. Accompaniment, however, means walking beside them, not in front of them and not behind them. This attitude becomes a pedagogical principle when the young person trusts the person who accompanies him or her.

CBA: There was also an online survey. What were the most surprising results for you there?
Baldisseri: First of all, the fact that there were so many contacts in the first place. In total, that was almost half a million. About 110.000 have started to answer the questionnaire, 80.000 have done this completely …
CBA: And in terms of content?
Baldisseri: For us, it was a first-time experience to open a website to interact with young people. Moreover, we have seen that the majority of them are already involved in the Church. Many were simply curious about what the church has to offer here. Young people today are used to looking at all options, including the church.

CBA: So for you, the contact itself is more important than the content of the answers?

Baldisseri: Yes, in a way there is. In this area, we simply must take further steps.
CBA: Several participants in the pre-synod were skeptical about how much of what moves them will get through to the bishops in the synod. How exactly will their document be included in the working document for the bishops?? Who will do it?

Baldisseri: The synod's working document feeds on four sources: first, the responses of the bishops' conferences. We also sent them a questionnaire. Of the 114 bishops' conferences, 80 percent have responded so far. This is a record for us at this time of a synod preparation. Of the 15 Oriental churches, twelve have already responded. In addition, curia, religious orders and non-Catholic institutions are requested.

The second source is a symposium on youth lifestyles that took place last fall.

The third source is the Youth Synod website and online questionnaire, and finally the fourth is the final document of the presynod. In addition, there are compilations of the various submissions during the pre-synod. From all this material, our experts are now making a synthesis, which is the "instrumentum laboris".

CBA: When will it be ready?

Baldisseri: It is to be presented here internally in mid-May. It will then be sent out worldwide in June.

CBA: How are young people involved in the synod itself – as auditors, guests, speakers?

Baldisseri: According to the statutes of the Synod, about 40 auditors are foreseen to represent the theme of the Synod. They can talk there, but they can't vote. They are selected with the help of the Bishops' Conferences from different parts of the world. In doing so, we want the broadest possible selection, including non-believers. They can speak once in the auditorium, but also express themselves in the language groups.

CBA: Will the auditors be chosen from among the participants in the presynod?
Baldisseri: We are free and open to choose someone from among the participants of the presynod, or others. We also want to give others the chance to contribute, want to hear others ourselves. So at the synod in October, participants from the pre-synod can be there – and others.

CBA: How exactly were the 300 participants in the presynod selected in the first place?

Baldisseri: First, we wrote to the 114 bishops' conferences asking them to delegate one person, the larger conferences two. The Eastern Churches as well. Then we asked the main Catholic movements and associations to send a representative. We have sought 15 to 20 percent of the participants in the presynod outside the Church, through sports associations, trade unions and other organizations. Their contributions were often very moving and enriching.
CBA: Some young people criticize the church for neglecting the topic of sexuality. What role will that play in the "instrumentum laboris"?
Baldisseri: The subject of sexuality will be dealt with like others, such as education. It is also true that at the symposium in the fall this criticism was made. But that was because the corresponding speaker dropped out at short notice.
CBA: Finally, a completely different question: There are circles that suspect or suspect that the Youth Synod is also a pretext to change or weaken the Church's teaching from "Humanae vitae" on the subject of sexuality. Your comment?

Baldisseri: For me this is completely absurd. There are no indications for this. Of course, as I said, we are dealing with the topic of sexuality as a whole. But we will not enter into such a debate at all.

The interview was conducted by Roland Juchem.

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Christina Cherry
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