The Pre-Synod Youth Meeting at the Vatican, March 19 – 24, 2018

Source: FSSPX News

An unprecedented event took place in Rome March 19, 2018, through March 24: a pre-synod youth meeting in preparation for the synod on youth, faith and vocational discernment. The bishops will gather for the synod itself October 3 – 28, 2018

Invitees to the Pre-Synod Meeting

The bishops’ conferences as well as all the major Catholic youth movements were invited to send representatives. Interviewed on March 20, 2018 by news agency, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general for the synod, said, “123 of the 285 participants are from Europe. Except for about ten, all the bishops’ conferences in the world responded to the appeal. Most of them are in Europe, hence the great difference in the origins of participants,” who were divided into English, French, Spanish and Italian language groups.

 Pope Francis wished to invite not only young Catholics, but also young critics of the Catholic Church: atheists, freethinkers, and the like. At the opening of proceedings, he addressed participants on March 19 at the college Mater Ecclesiae. This meeting, he explained, was held to help the Church adopt “the creativity of the apostles;” he asked the young people to collaborate in its “fertility.” He condemned “the logic of ‘it has always been done that way,’” which is “sweet poison” that “leaves you as anesthetized.” Contemporary society, the Pope lamented, “idolizes youth,” but also excludes young people “from being protagonists.” This pre-synod meeting is intended to show that the Church takes young people seriously. He recalled how, at various points throughout history, God chose to speak through the young, for example Samuel and David. This pre-synod meeting is to be the sign of something great, Francis declared: “the desire of the Church to listen to young people, without exclusion” [--and without demagoguery? – Ed.].

A Final Document to Draft the Instrumentum Laboris

Over 15,000 people also signed up on Facebook to contribute via Internet. Cardinal Baldisseri said on March 20, “We are working with a preparatory document that was sent to them before the meeting. We have only six days, which is not much but it is enough to obtain a broad spectrum of what we have discussed. When we have the final document at the end of the week, we will have the summary of the work done by the 20 groups present in Rome and the 6 groups working on social media.”

Sister Nathalie Becquart, in charge of youth ministry for the French bishops’ conference, was appointed general coordinator of the pre-synod. Her role was to help draft the final document submitted to Pope Francis on Palm Sunday, March 25. “Concretely, the pre-synod is an integral part of the preparations for the October synod. The work done will furnish a basis for reflection when drafting the instrumentum laboris. It is a direct contribution from the youth of the entire world. The final document will be a very strong response to the Pope’s call, asking them to express their criticisms freely,” she told news agency iMedia.

The summary was drafted by a committee made up of young people. This document was unanimously approved by the young people, according to Cardinal Baldisseri at a March 24 press conference (or at least, no one interrupted with any statement to the contrary!)

However, among the young people invited to the pre-synod, German Alina Oehler, 27-year-old journalist and theologian, admitted on the website of the German Catholic Church that “producing a document with 300 participants in such a short time inevitably leads to a loss of transparency.” She added, “The way the individual editors were chosen was for the most part unclear.” She emphasized this persistent vagueness, saying that “many participants were invited at the last minute and knew almost nothing of the context.” Lastly, the young feminist of Voices of Faith rejoiced that the issue of women’s role in the Church had been raised at the pre-synod meeting.

“The Pre-synod Meeting: an Inspiration for Civil Society?”

This was the name by which the Vatican website referenced the final document in the title of a March 26 article. “Young people express a strong need for the Church to accompany them on a myriad of existential issues,” Sister Nathalie Becquart stated. Vatican News added that their need for accompaniment goes hand in hand with their formulation of some requirements for an institution that they sometimes feel is “distant.” In the discussions that were held, the consensus that emerged was that we need a Church that is “more transparent, more credible, and above all more human,” according to Sister Nathalie. By more human is meant a Church that recognizes its weaknesses, in terms of abuse of power or of sexual abuse, she continued, and she is pleased that many of the unbelieving participants were amazed at the Church’s ability to gather so many young people together to debate and discuss contemporary issues: “They wholeheartedly wished that governments and civil institutions could imitate this synodal model.”

On March 24th already, website Vatican Insider run by Italian daily La Stampa headlined: “The Youth of the Pre-Synod: ‘We want a Church that is less moralizing and recognizes its mistakes,’” and offered a sneak peek at the document to be presented to the Pope on the 25th.

The document expresses a certain anxiety of young people about their future with regard to all the social problems that exist… The question of the meaning of life remains present. The Church is seen more as a structure than as a “meeting place,” and can appear “too severe and moralizing.” Young people want the Church to be welcoming and merciful, “moving beyond the logic of ‘it has always been done this way.’” – [Is that indeed their own concern, or that of Francis, stated on March 19 in the opening address?—Ed.]

The summary reports some ignorance and a desire on the part of young people to be taught and to understand in more depth Christ, the Scriptures, the faith they profess, the teachings of the Church, especially on polarizing issues and misunderstandings (issues related to affectivity, to sexuality, etc.). The Gospel message is sometimes hard to hear: they want a better explanation. From this perspective, accompaniment takes on a fundamental role, with persons in positions of trust, both lay and religious, who can help, advise, and guide, while respecting their freedom.

Some attention is paid to new technologies and means of communication. Young people are not naïve on this issue, extolling on the one hand their many advantages and benefits, and on the other, aware of the wandering and the vices they can encourage and promote: isolation, boredom, insensitivity or blindness towards the sufferings of others, and pornography. It remains nonetheless that technology, in the broader sense, is a domain that is well adapted for evangelization. The digital world offers many possibilities, and it is up to the Church to seize this opportunity, while emphasizing its presence “in real life,” meeting people in the street, in bars, stadiums, orphanages, hospitals, the peripheries, prisons, war zones, etc.

The document says that young people “are more aware and receptive when they can act within the Church and the world.” They want to act as Catholics in politics, in secular and in humanitarian activities.

Lastly, young people say they want to be trusted: they want to be involved in decision-making groups, in parishes, in dioceses and in Vatican commissions. They want to be a responsible and joyful presence, and “a creative voice in the Church,” without which communities can seem “dead.”

What Will the Synod on Youth “Vocational Discernment” Entail?

This final document, Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli exclaimed on March 28 on his blog, does not reveal “the beauty of the Christian proposition. What is consistent, however, is the call for self-critique,” emphasizing the limits and the “vulnerability” of religious life, emphasizing “the lack of clarity on the role of women in the Church.” On March 31st, he added that the document “proffers almost word for word the convictions that are central to the pontificate of Pope Francis.” The journalist also reported the witness borne by a member of the English-language Facebook group, John Monaco, quoted by the Catholic Herald on March 30. Among the responses given by young people, he said, “the desire for teaching in continuity with tradition, with a particular emphasis on the traditional liturgy, clearly appeared. However, these ideas were not mentioned in the final document.” Aldo Maria Valli reports that “according to reports from Munich, when numerous young people pointed out to their group leaders the significant inconsistency between the opinions offered and the summary, their comments were deleted.” One might well wonder who really wrote the summary…

This pre-synod revealed nonetheless the crucial lack of vocations and the absence of a teaching Church, through the patent ignorance of these young people and the obvious lack of spiritual directors.

The Sovereign Pontiff responded to the lack of vocations in his own way, in a video message for the 40th national week for institutes of consecrated life, which opened on April 5, 2018 in Madrid. His words were reported by Vatican News, addressed to Fr. Carlos Martinez Oliveras, director of the theological institute of religious life in Madrid, as well as to the 700 participants: “We cannot stop at this complaint, (…) weeping over past glories, when the Lord has told us, ‘look ahead, and look at what you must do.’” Whatever happens, the Pope said, we must “not proselytize.” On the contrary, we must seek out “ways to open paths for the Lord to speak, for Him to call. There is no point in carrying out electoral campaigns or commercials, because God’s call does not enter into modern marketing methods,” before he exhorted the participants to courage. “As for the number of vocations,” he concluded, “let the Lord decide. Let us do what He has asked: pray and bear witness.”

On March 20, Cardinal Baldisseri told news agency, “The Church is an ancient and solid structure, but it must now have the courage to be more transparent and more flexible. This will be a whole exercise in perspective for the Church, and I think even an exercise that she must carry out on herself, and in all the parts of the world. The pyramid structure that currently exists in the Church is not the right one. To be nearer to young people, it is necessary, as the Pope said, that the pyramid be inverted.” (sic) [Are these words even Catholic any more? Christ, who founded His Church on Peter, who taught with authority—which came from God (Romans 13:1)—did not preach universal democracy and the reversal of natural society, nor revolution in the Kingdom that He founded.]

In a book-length interview published in France on March 22 (God is Young, Editions Robert Laffont – Presses de la Renaissance), Pope Francis spoke to young people in the entire world, Catholic or not, through his conversations with a young researcher in sociology and psychology. During these five interviews with Thomas Leoncini, the great questions of society are treated: God, fake news, consumerism, education… For the Pope, “God is young,” because He can “make all things young.”

God is Young was released in the context of the pre-synodal youth meeting. Weekly Le Point published exclusive excerpts from the book on March 19. Francis, promotor of a “culture of encounter,” according to the French magazine, wants to use intergenerational dialogue to spread his “revolution of tenderness.” The salvation of the old is to pass on their memories and to be “real dreamers of the future;” that of the young is to learn their experiences and “bring them forward in prophecy…” [or Utopia?]

“God is the One who renews all things, unceasingly, because He is always new: God is young! The old dreamers and the young prophets are the means of salvation for our rootless society,” the Pope said.

Let us give a central place to the youth! Marginalized, the excluded in our time are made of the same stuff as God: their best qualities are His. It is only by building a bridge between the old and the young that this revolution of human tenderness that we all need so sorely can take place.

With reference to the themes discussed at the pre-synod, the book seemingly quite naturally approves the subjects on the table and orients the coming synod. “I recommend to Christians that they read the book of the Acts of the Apostles: the creativity of these men. These men knew how to go forward with a creativity that, if we translate it into today’s terms, would terrify us!” the Pope said on March 19. [Several Roman observers have wondered if the preparation of this synod on youth is not similar to that of the synod on the family… with the same enthusiastic rhetoric and the same doctrinal confusions.—Ed.]


How can one avoid seeing in this tumultuous agitation, lulled by utopias and filled with words, the achievement of the great Sillon movement condemned, in his time, by Pope St. Pius X? A Church that has become a democracy under pretence of being universal, without established dogma or defined morality, an echo of the illusions and the slogans of the world… as if still chasing the chimera of the 70s, which we had thought died with the formidable crisis triggered by Vatican II. The Conciliar Church, that is the Church who follows the Revolution begun under the auspices of l’aggiornament desired by John XXIII, is completely blind to the reality of the shipwreck in the faith of its children, and refuses to learn. The shepherds are asking the flock to be creative, while the flock expects the shepherds to lead it to the green pastures of the doctrine of salvation, of the true Sacrifice of the Mass, and of the Sacraments, bearers of grace and eternal life. There is no worse blindness than that of one who will not see: “When a blind man leads another blind man, they both fall into the pit.” (Matt 15:14)

Que sera ce synode sur « le discernement vocationnel » des jeunes ?

Ce document final, s’exclame le 28 mars le journaliste italien Aldo Maria Valli sur son blogue, ne révèle pas « la beauté de la proposition chrétienne. Constant, en revanche, est le souci de l’autocritique », soulignant les limites et la « vulnérabilité » de la vie consacrée, mettant l’accent sur « le manque de clarté sur le rôle des femmes dans l’Eglise ». Un texte, ajoute-t-il le 31 mars, qui « retrace presque à la lettre les convictions au centre du pontificat de François ». Le journaliste rapporte également le témoignage d’un membre du groupe Facebook en langue anglaise, John Monaco, publié par le Catholic Herald le 30 mars. Parmi les réponses données par les jeunes, dit-il, « le désir d’un enseignement conforme à la tradition avec une attention particulière à la liturgie traditionnelle, est clairement apparu. Pourtant, ces idées n’ont pas trouvé place dans le document final ». Aldo Maria Valli rapporte enfin que « selon des rapports de Munich, lorsque de nombreux jeunes ont fait remarquer aux chefs de groupe la grave incohérence entre les sollicitations fournies et le résumé, leurs commentaires ont été supprimés ». Et de se demander qui a vraiment écrit la synthèse…

Ce pré-synode n’en révèle pas moins l’absence cruciale de vocations et la carence d’une Eglise enseignante, à travers l’ignorance patente de ces jeunes et le manque évident de directeurs spirituels.

Au manque de vocations, le souverain pontife répondait à sa façon, dans un message vidéo à l’occasion de la 40e semaine nationale pour les instituts de vie consacrée, qui s’ouvrait le 5 avril dernier à Madrid. Ses propos, rapportés par Vatican News, s’adressaient au P. Carlos Martinez Oliveras, directeur de l’Institut théologique de vie religieuse de Madrid, ainsi qu’aux 700 participants : « nous ne pouvons pas nous arrêter à cette plainte, (…) en pleurant sur les gloires passées, alors que le Seigneur nous dit : ‘regarde devant, et regarde ce que tu dois faire’ ». Il importe quoi qu’il en soit, avertit le pape, de « ne pas faire de prosélytisme ». Au contraire, il faut chercher les « moyens d’ouvrir des chemins afin que le Seigneur puisse parler, qu’Il puisse appeler. Il ne sert à rien de faire des campagnes électorales ou commerciales, parce que l’appel de Dieu n’entre pas dans des modèles de marketing », avant d’exhorter les participants au courage. « Quant au nombre des vocations, a-t-il conclu, que le Seigneur décide. Faisons ce qu’Il nous a demandé : prier et témoigner ». 

Le 20 mars, le cardinal Baldisseri déclarait à l’agence : « l’Eglise est une structure ancienne et solide mais qui doit maintenant avoir le courage d’être plus transparente et plus flexible. Il y a là tout un travail en perspective pour l’Eglise, et je crois même un travail qu’elle doit faire sur elle-même. Et dans toutes les parties du monde. La structure pyramidale qui est celle de l’Eglise actuelle n’est pas la bonne. Pour être plus proche des jeunes, il faut, comme l’a dit le pape, que la pyramide s’inverse. » (sic) - Ces propos sont-ils encore catholiques ? Le Christ, qui a établi son Eglise sur Pierre, qui a enseigné avec autorité - laquelle vient de Dieu (cf. Rm 13, 1) -, n’a pas prêché la démocratie universelle et le renversement des sociétés naturelles, ni la révolution dans le Royaume qu’il fondait.

Dans un livre-entretien publié en France le 22 mars (Dieu est jeune, Editions Robert Laffont - Presses de la Renaissance), le pape François s’adresse aux jeunes du monde entier, catholiques ou non, en conversant avec un jeune chercheur en sociologie et psychologie. Au cours de ces cinq entretiens avec Thomas Leoncini, les grandes questions de la société sont abordées : Dieu, les fake-news (« nouvelles fausses »), la consommation, l’éducation... Pour le pape, « Dieu est jeune », car Il est capable « de rajeunir toutes choses ».

Dieu est jeune paraît précisément dans le contexte de la réunion pré-synodale des jeunes. L’hebdomadaire Le Point publiait en exclusivité des passages du livre dès le 19 mars. François, promoteur d’une « culture de la rencontre », écrit le magazine français, veut s’appuyer sur le dialogue intergénérationnel pour étendre sa « révolution de la tendresse ». Le salut des vieux est de transmettre la mémoire et d’être de « véritables rêveurs de l’avenir », celui des jeunes est de se saisir de leur expérience pour « les porter en avant dans la prophétie » - ou l’utopie ?

« Dieu est Celui qui renouvelle toutes choses, sans cesse, parce qu’Il est toujours neuf : Dieu est jeune ! Les vieux rêveurs et les jeunes prophètes sont la voie du salut pour notre société déracinée », affirme le pape. « Donnons aux jeunes une place centrale ! Marginalisés, ces exclus de notre temps sont faits de la même étoffe que Dieu : leurs meilleures qualités sont les siennes. Ce n’est qu’en établissant un pont entre les anciens et les jeunes que pourra survenir cette révolution de la tendresse humaine dont nous avons tous si profondément besoin ».

Traitant des thèmes abordés lors du pré-synode l’ouvrage vient tout naturellement, semble-t-il, appuyer les sujets traités par les participants et orienter le synode à venir. « Aux chrétiens, je recommande de lire le livre des Actes des apôtres : la créativité de ces hommes. Ces hommes savaient aller de l’avant avec une créativité qui, si nous la traduisons dans ce que cela signifie aujourd’hui, nous épouvante ! », lançait le pape le 19 mars. – Plusieurs observateurs romains se demandent si la préparation de ce synode des jeunes n’est pas semblable à celle du synode sur la famille. Avec la même rhétorique enthousiaste et les mêmes confusions doctrinales.

Commentaire : Comment ne pas voir dans cette agitation tumultueuse qui se berce d’utopies, en se payant de mots, la réalisation de ce grand Sillon qu’avait dénoncé, en son temps, le pape saint Pie X ? Une Eglise devenue démocratique sous prétexte d’être universelle, sans dogme établi ni morale définie, se faisant l’écho des illusions et des slogans venus du monde. Comme si elle poursuivait encore ces vieilles lunes des années 70, que l’on croyait pourtant éteintes avec la formidable crise qui s’est déclenchée après Vatican II. L’Eglise conciliaire, c’est-à-dire l’Eglise qui suit la révolution entreprise au nom de l’aggiornamento voulu par Jean XXIII, n’en finit pas de ne pas voir la réalité du naufrage dans la foi de ses enfants et elle refuse d’en tirer des leçons. Les pasteurs demandent au troupeau de faire preuve de créativité, alors que les brebis attendent de leurs pasteurs qu’ils les mènent dans les verts pâturages de la doctrine du salut, du vrai sacrifice de la messe et des sacrements porteurs de grâce et de vie éternelle. Il n’y a pas de pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut pas voir : « Lorsqu’un aveugle conduit un autre aveugle, ils tombent tous deux dans la fosse » (Mt 15, 14).