Friday, January 13, 2017

Back To The Aula – With Next Synod Text, "Question Time" Returns

Even as the embers – and, in some quarters, tempers – are still smoldering from the Pope's first round of a retooled and more responsive Synodal process, nine months since the Amoris Wars began their ongoing tear at the conversational extremes, Francis has nonetheless seen fit to re-drop one of his favorite words: "Avanti" – that is, "Forward."

Its topic announced last fall, earlier today saw the release of the baseline text for the next Synod, slated for October 2018 on the theme of "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment." In a change from its predecessors, however, today's release is not referred to as a Lineamenta, but simply a "Preparatory Document" fulfilling the same function. Yet again, as the Synod chief Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri confirmed at the text's release this morning, the input sent to Rome from across the global church on this text will be processed and summarized to form the Instrumentum Laboris – the "working paper" which forms the springboard of the Synod's discussions.

As with the launch of the three-year process on the family culminating in last April's Apostolic Exhortation, this first document is anchored by a questionnaire, albeit one far more streamlined than the 2013 opening queries which began the prior Synodal cycle. And in another change from the last round, ostensibly given the flood of responses received in many local churches – which created massive logjams both for the respective episcopal conferences and the Vatican's beefed-up Synod Secretariat – there's a considerably more ample window of time for these questions to be discerned and processed both in the trenches and as the reports wend their way "upward."

In a separate letter released today with the Preparatory Document, the Pope aimed to directly address the youth and young adults of the global church, saying that he wants them "to be the center of attention" for the entire process "because you are in my heart."

Entrusting the Prep Doc to the young as the "compass" for the discussion to come, Francis told them that "a better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity.

"Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master.

"The church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls."

Toward that end, while the full English text of the Prep Doc may be found here (Ed.: 27-page pdf), below is the slimmed-down question piece at its close. In each case, entities in the local churches which seek to add their voices are to do so to their respective diocese, which is charged with coordinating the first stage of the consultation.

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The aim of the questions is to assist the customary ecclesial bodies “by right” to express their understanding of the world of young people and assess their experience of vocational accompaniment, in order to gather information for drafting the work- document or Instrumentum laboris.

So as to take into account the various situations on the different continents and regions, three specific questions for each geographic area have been inserted after question 15, to generate response from the interested ecclesial bodies.

To facilitate and make tenable this work, the respective bodies are requested to limit their response to approximately one page for the question on statistics, one page each for the questions assessing the situation and one page for the three experiences for the continents and regions. If necessary or desired, other texts can be attached to support or supplement the contents of the responses.

1 Gathering Statistics

Please indicate, where possible, the source of the statistics and make reference to the year. Other pertinent information can be attached to better understand the situation in various countries.

- Number of inhabitants in the country / countries and the birth rate.

- Number and percentage of young people (ages 16-29) in the country / countries.

- Number and percentage of Catholics in the country / countries.

- Average age (for the last 5 years) for marrying (distinguishing between men and women), for entering the seminary and the consecrated life (distinguishing between men and women).

- In the 16-29 age group, the percentage of students, workers (if possible specify the type of work), unemployed, NEET.

2. Evaluating the Situation

a) Young People, the Church and Society

These questions refer both to young people who take part in Church programmes, as well as those who do not take part or have no interest to participate.

1. In what manner does the Church listen to the lived situations of young people?

2. What are the main challenges and most significant opportunities for young people in your country / countries today?

3. What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success within the Church, and why?

4. What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success outside the Church, and why?

5. What do young people really ask of the Church in your country / countries today?

6. What possibilities for participation exist in your country / countries for young people to take part in the life of the ecclesial community?

7. How and in what manner is contact made with young people who do not frequent Church surroundings?

b) Pastoral Vocational Programmes for Young People

8. How are families and communities involved in the vocational discernment of young people?

9. How do schools and universities or other educational institutions (civil or ecclesial) contribute to young people’s formation in vocational discernment?

10. In what manner are you taking into account the cultural changes resulting from the development of the digital world?

11. How can World Youth Days or other national or international events become a part of ordinary pastoral practice?

12. In what manner is your diocese planning experiences for the pastoral vocational programme for young people?

c) Pastoral Care Workers with Young People

13. How much time and in what manner do clergy and other formators provide for personal spiritual guidance?

14. What initiatives and opportunities for formation are in place for those who provide pastoral vocational guidance?

15. What personal guidance is offered in seminaries?

d) Specific Questions According to Geographic Areas


a. What plans and structures in pastoral vocational care for young people best respond to the needs of your continent?

b. What does “spiritual fatherhood” mean in places where a person grows without a father figure? What formation is offered?

c. How do you communicate to young people that they are needed to build the future of the Church?


a. How does your community care for young people who experience extreme violence (guerrilla warfare, gangs, prison, drug addiction, forced marriages) and accompany them in various ways in their life?

b. What formation is offered to support the engagement of young people in society and civil life, for the common good?

c. In a world which is greatly secularized, what pastoral activities are most effective for continuing the journey of faith after the Sacraments of Christian Initiation?


a. Why and how do religious gatherings by those who are non-Catholic exercise an attraction on young people?

b. In what way can the values of a local culture be combined with Christian teaching, while also giving importance to popular piety?

c. How is the language used in a young people’s world incorporated in the pastoral care of young people, especially in the media, sports and music?


a. What assistance is offered to young people to look to the future with confidence and hope, beginning with the richness of Christian roots of Europe?

b. Young people often feel sidelined and excluded in the political, economic and social surroundings in which they live. In what way do you take into consideration the feeling to protest so that it can be transformed into participation and collaboration?

c. At what levels do relations between generations still work? If they do not function, how can they be renewed?

3. Sharing Activities

1. List the main types of pastoral activity in accompaniment and vocational discernment in your present situation.

2. Choose three activities you consider the most interesting and relevant to share with the universal Church, and present it according to the following format (no more than one page for each experience).

a) Description: In a few sentences, roughly describe the activity. Who are the leading characters? How does the activity take place? Where? Etc.

b) Analysis: Evaluate the activity, even in layman’s terms, for a better understanding of the important elements: what are the goals? What is the theoretical basis? What are the most interesting insights? How have they developed? Etc.

c) Evaluation: What are the goals? If not achieved, why? Strengths and weaknesses? What are the consequences on the social, cultural and ecclesial levels? Why and in what way is the activity important / formative? etc.