‘La Croix” talks to Fr Joao Chagas, director of the Youth Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life about the issues for the Synod on Young People and Vocations in October 2018. Gauthier Vaillant April 13, 2017
Fr Joao Chagas, director of the youth section of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. / Corinne Simon/CIRIC
What is the aim of the Synod?
Fr Joao Chagas: In the current world, which is changing rapidly, where many social transformations have taken place, it is not easy for the Church to remain in contact with the realities that young people are experiencing.
However, the Church feels the need to listen to young people, to be close to them. It recognizes their immense potential but it also needs to successfully enter into dialogue with them, to encourage them to give the best of themselves.
So I think that the Synod is a call from God to all the bishops through the pope to achieve these goals.
What linkages do you see between this synod and the two recent synods on the family?
JC: Young people spend their youths with their families and youth is also the time for developing a direction in life. Moreover, this period of development is often disrupted today. In our “liquid” societies there is a risk that young people will stop developing dreams for their future.
When this happens, it is a serious failure. Currently, we see that many young people are affected by depression and drugs… They fail to find meaning in their lives.
However, the importance for young people of emotional life is very clear and this translates particularly into the fact that nearly all of them aspire to one day found a family. Ultimately, everything revolves around the family. Even the vocation to the priesthood has the objective of service to the laity, who make up the families themselves.
One of the teachings of the Synod on the Family was the very great diversity of situations experienced across the world. Do you think this will be the same for young people?
JC: I have a feeling that the world of young people is more globalized, more connected, more networked.
All the same, there are significant differences, particularly regarding the freedom to choose their lives. In some regions, marriage is still decided upon by parents. Africa, for example, is a young continent but in which older people have great weight in society. In these cultures, it is difficult for young people to become decision makers in society.
With respect to the faith, there are also many roles where young people are still “objects” of the pastoral instead of being agents.
What message does the Church wish to address to young people with this Synod?
JC: It needs to show that Christian life is much more than needing to “do” things and that it consists above all of welcoming grace. Young people need to learn to admit that they are loved by God and the Church. And to feel called to be protagonists of the life of the Church.
I believe that young people have had enough of hearing “you are the future”. When we say that we are saying that they will only be interesting later!
One of the issues for this synod will be to finally say to young people that they are not just the future but the present. The question is this: “What is it that I, as a young person, can do and be to live and serve the present?”
“I believe that the basis of everything is recognizing oneself as a gift and asking what I can do for others. Based on this idea of a gift, young people are called to ask themselves how to orient their lives in service of humanity and the Kingdom of God.