By Samantha Lin, Tommaso Bacci and Filipe Domingues
From March 19 to the 24th, more than 300 young people from around the world gathered in Rome for the Pre-Synodal Meeting “We Talk Together” in anticipation of the Synod of Bishops “Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment”. Young people were chosen as representatives of Bishops’ conferences, movements and associations, including representatives from other religions; three Lay Centre students were invited to represent Catholic universities. All three, Tommaso Bacci, Filipe Domingues and Samantha Lin, are Lay Centre Leadership Scholars.
For the first time, the young people were an official part of the synodal process. The final document from the meeting is part of the Instrumentum Laboris which will contribute to the work of the Holy Father, Pope Francis and the Bishops at October 2018 Synod.
The week began with a frank discussion and authentic encounter with Pope Francis, who greeted the gathered young people like an old friend. Cardinal Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, introduced Pope Francis and the synodal process; Pope Francis then spoke about the need to be brave and courageous and to listen well to one another. It was clear how hopeful he was and how he trusted us to prepare a good document; his words of encouragement were reflected in our discussions throughout the week and positively affected the tone of the conference.
After the encounter with the Pope, the small groups, organized by language, met and discussed the themes that would shape the final document: the challenges and opportunities of today’s youth; faith, vocation and discernment; and the Church’s pastoral activity.
The three Lay Centre students became involved in all stages of the document-writing process.
Filipe Domingues, doctoral candidate at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was one of twelve drafters tasked with synthesizing the draft documents from the 24 small-group sessions, including several virtual discussion boards.
“Working on the drafting committee, I was able to have a general view of what participants from different linguistic groups answered for the questions proposed by the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. I could notice that most concerns of young people were similar, although they come from different backgrounds, cultures and geographical places. It is true that many have more specific things to say, according to their personal experience, beliefs and origins, but I do feel that most of the "big themes" that were mentioned on the final document are somehow present in the minds and hearts of most young people all around the world,” reflected Filipe on his experience.
Samantha Lin, student at the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was involved in editing the final document and Tommaso Bacci, first-cycle theology student also at the Pontifical Gregorian, translated it, together with two others, into Italian.
"In the translation committee we had quite a night, considering that the final version in English was given us at 3:00am and we sent the translation to the pope at 11:45am! The main challenge, I think, was trying to give a neutral translation, since several topics of the document could potentially have been translated in political ways, but the whole team (all three of us!) felt that the spirit behind the document wasn't to give any orientation of this kind, but to raise the concerns and the desire of young people, not favoring any party or any kind of flag. Luckily, at 11:45, when the Secretary came to us saying ‘Hurry up, we have to send at least a draft in Italian to the Pope for the press conference!’ we had just finished!"
The week-long meeting was a learning experience for all, as we had an opportunity to meet with young people from diverse backgrounds.
“I learned that all of us, even if we disagree with Church teachings or have been disappointment or frustrated with the Church in the past, are hopeful and still want to be engaged with the Church. Everyone, even the non-Catholics present, had a fundamental respect for the Church and I found a deep joy about being Catholic in many of my fellow Catholics. It was inspiring and joyful to build community in that way and to see the Holy Spirit working in unique ways,” reflected Samantha.
We will continue to pray for Pope Francis and the upcoming Synod,
that our words may be received joyfully!