Young people? “a generation of discarded ones.” The Pope? “he is their advocate.” A month after the conclusion, Thomas Leoncini, writer, scholar of psychological and social models, auditor at the Synod, drew a portrait of a “cohesive Church, which is following Pope Francis; a Church that has fully understood the situation of young people. And most of all, this Church is working to obtain concrete results”, which the final document testifies to.
A month later, what is the “snapshot” you still carry in your heart?
It was a historic month because the Church stopped to listen to a whole generation, the generation of young people, considering them for what they are: a generation of discarded ones.
Although it may seem an overly pessimistic statement, ever more often young people worldwide are given false hopes and they end up feeling frustrated. They grow richer, but only in terms of skills that fail to meet employment expectations, and thus they are left without the gratification needed to discharge accumulated tensions. Young people are a fragile generation, not only in terms of relationships but also at a deeper level, in the precarious labour market and welfare system that are increasingly becoming a privilege rather than a right.
Let us consider employment: logic is no longer a criterion. Everything is lived out on the spur of the moment and all promises that one tended to believe in are unmet and falling to pieces, leaving youths to cope with feelings of frustration and uselessness.
The young are the first major victims of this liquid society. Acknowledging this as a fact is not to be taken for granted. The truth is that not everyone is yet aware of it.
The post-synod snapshot portrays a cohesive Church that is following Pope Francis and that has understood the serious situation of young people. Most of all, it’s a Church that is working to obtain something concrete. The final document testifies to this effort.
During the first Synod dedicated entirely to young people Pope Francis was one of you, even in informal moments such as coffee-breaks. In can be said that to a certain extent your book “God is young” has “anticipated” the Synod. Which Pope have you met speaking with him on that occasion and which Pope did you meet during the month of work inside the Vatican?
The very same Pope, a humane Pope, a testimony of life.
I found the same authentic man that I met in his deepest emotions, those that with a veil of nostalgia cherish the memories of his childhood in Buenos Aires. During our six long meetings for the writing of “God is young”, translated worldwide, Francis openly showed his true self, sharing also the pains of his youth, the most intimate fears of Bergoglio as an adolescent and child. Pope Francis is not afraid of being himself and this is indispensable to be loved by the young, that even in the peripheries are victims of deceitful behaviours facing preachers that say one thing and do another.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Pope Francis is the advocate of world youths, he is not afraid of living out the future, and spending time with the young means to live out the future.In your address at the Synod you mentioned, inter alia, the “absence” of politics from the life of the young: what can be done to encourage their active engagement?
Our society is undergoing a rapid “de-civilization” process. Until a few years ago if someone spoke in terms of ‘races’ we would have thought it was a joke and it would have been viewed as anachronistic in our modern world. But today nobody is ashamed of describing diversity as a problem that needs to be solved. And this is a life-sentence crime amounting to the murder of dialogue. The rapid pace characterising these changed views is alarming and dangerous.
It is indispensable to establish a strong, truthful relationship between the young and the old generations: young people should be given the opportunity to dream a democratic world based on values and ideals, one that is not only based on immediate gain.
Instead of seeking a solution to this problem the political realm has started to worship god mammon and thus -whether or not intentionally- it is supporting this state of affairs.
Which of the many issues broached in the dialogue between bishops and young people at the Synod do you consider critical to ensuring that the voice of young people is truly listened to and taken into due consideration?
I personally consider it necessary for Church representatives, especially in the peripheries, to be witnesses of faith and of life, speaking a direct language, open to listening, rather than making pronouncements. I think there is an urgent need to discern between situations requiring a form of “support” and those requiring “recuperation”, but the request for recuperation must come from the young.
A young person must feel free to make mistakes, if he/she errs with courage and determination.
Making mistakes is always necessary for growth and for life-changing decisions, to get to know oneself and thus identify the road we need to follow.
If a young person asks for the support of the Church, the latter must avert the risk of being moralistic and expect to have a universal solution to a private problem. The young person who approaches the priest because he/she has a problem, and needs someone to talk with, is in need of support. That person is not asking to be recuperated. Priests’ judgemental views, if unrequested, end up being a noose around the Church’s neck.
In your opinion, have young people been a crucial presence at the Synod? Or does the Church need to make further steps, and if so, which are the steps needed to “tune into” the life of the young?
The presence of young people was indispensable because each one of them brought the testimony of the young from their respective countries. The dialogue that ensued has been fruitful and marked by the yearning to bring about a change.
We numbered a few hundred inside the Synod Hall, but the testimonies represented millions of young people.