“We give some things out of hand”

Almost four weeks of deliberations in the Vatican on the topics of youth, faith and vocational discernment. The guiding principle: "Listening is more than just being able to hear well!". On Sunday the synod will end, but with what result??

The Synod of Bishops on Youth, meeting in the Vatican, ended with a commitment to greater openness to the laity. To be credible, church reform is needed, the 270 or so participating bishops declared in their final document adopted Saturday evening. The prophetic image of a synodal church has still not been realized 50 years after the Second Vatican Council.

At the 3. In addition to the bishops, nearly 50 non-clerics, including 36 young Catholics under the age of 30, also participated as so-called auditors in the synod on "Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment," which opened on October 10. They participated in the debates but were excluded from voting on the final document.

"Fruit of the Holy Spirit

In the 167-article, 55-print-page paper, the bishops call their experience of working with young Christians a "fruit of the Holy Spirit". They said the Catholic Church must offer more participation and responsibility for lay people as well, especially for young people and women. The bishops oppose a "clericalism that excludes many from decision-making processes" as well as a "clericalization of the laity".

Giving young people responsibility in the church is not an "additional option". In the criticism of young people, church leadership must also hear a call from God for conversion and renewal of structures, she said.

Self-criticism of church leaders

Bishops note that a large proportion of young people no longer consider the Church a serious interlocutor. They point to abuse and financial scandals as reasons for this, but also the inability of church officials to respond to young people. Church leaders also criticize themselves for not being able to make their own teachings plausible. In part, the commitment of young Christians met with authoritarianism and mistrust on the part of ministers who did not want to relinquish leadership authority.

Catholic sexual morality is also a reason for many young people to distance themselves from the church. In the current cultural environment, the Church has trouble communicating its view of physicality and sexuality, they say. In order for pastors to be credible, they themselves must have affective and sexual maturity.

"Almost revolutionary"

From the point of view of the German participants in the Synod of Bishops, the three-week meeting was a success. In particular, the joint conversation and the reports on experiences from other parts of the world were enriching, they said on Saturday evening at a press conference at the end of the event. The synod process, which began a year ago, must now continue, he said.

For the church, the way of listening extensively to young people at a synod is "almost revolutionary," said Thomas Andonie, chairman of the Association of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ).

For young auditors from other continents, being able to have their say and influence the deliberations of church leadership was often a first-time experience.

Differences of opinion in the church

Immediately before that, the final document of the synod had been passed with the required two-thirds majority. In three sections, it describes the life situations of young people worldwide, evaluates them from a Christian perspective and proposes perspectives for church action. In the document, paragraphs containing statements on gender identity and homosexuality, on the one hand, and on the role of women, on the other, received a relatively large number of dissenting votes.

When asked about the reasons for this, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, referred to the existing differences of opinion in the church, especially between continents, which are in some cases great. However, he had not been able to recognize any corresponding block formation in the synod hall, especially since the vote was secret.

"We give some things out of our hands"

On the contrary, he considers it a success that the Catholic Church was able to agree on a document instead of falling out over it. "A battle vote with a one-vote majority and many losers is not the point of a synod," Marx emphasized. In politics, as in other denominations and churches, there are sometimes fierce disagreements over such ies.

Why passages about the synodal character of the church also received relatively many dissenting voices, the participants could not quite explain. According to Marx, the concept of a synodal church favored by Pope Francis is still too unclear for some synod participants. "In any case, synodality also means: We bishops give some things out of our hands," said the cardinal, "and some people are afraid of that."

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Christina Cherry
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