At Synod 2018 there has been much talk of accompanying young people, of being close to them, andalsoof looking at young people who are actually outside the Church. But there are also young people who have faith, but it is not Catholic. And on this, young people in the Middle East have an «unbeatable experience».
This was announced to ACI Stampa, before the last meeting of the Synod, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who has jurisdiction over the Catholics of the Latin rite of Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus.
Excellency, what has brought from the young people from the Middle East to the Synod?
I brought with me their questions, their expectations, which are expectations of justice, of bread, caused by so many social problems. But I also brought their hope.
The Latin Patriarchate has the management of four nations. How are these four realities managed?
They are completely different realities. To understand them we need to start from the bottom, listen to those responsible, and then visit, listen, talk and find the common elements. And the common elements are of course Jerusalem, and then love for Christ, and attention to social issues, to the poor people.
And how diverse are young people from nation to nation?
Not just between nation and nation, even between cities. Young people are also different between Nazareth and Jerusalem, for example. But at the same time, young people are the same all over the world: they are full of life, they have a bit of anger, lots of expectations, but they also have a lot of freshness, a lot of simplicity. And it is simplicity that we need above all in the Middle East, that we are so stuck…
Cast in what way?
Cast in traditions. We are a land full of traditions, which are beautiful and are a wealth. But we also need the simplicity of young people, basically.
During the Synod, there was much talk of accompanying young people, of being close to them. But is there any message that you think should be investigated?
True, we must accompany the young. But to accompany what? It is clear that we must accompany them to the encounter with Christ. It’s a beautiful expression. But it must be translated into everyday reality. It is clear that the Synod cannot go into all the details. It will then be up to us to make conclusions and put them into practice.
Some bishops have complained that the Synod lacked a strong emphasis on sanctity, while the young have a desire for holiness. It shares?
There were very strong interventions on holiness at the Synod, I would not say that it was not talked about. It is true, however, that young people are thirsty for transcendence. We have talked about so many social problems; perhaps we should give more emphasis to the question of transcendence. People don’t come to us to solve the problems of poverty. They come to us to meet Jesus.
What can young people from the Middle East teach young Westerners?
There has been a lot of talk about young people and about the relationship with those who are far away. On the contrary, little has been said about the fact that there are young people who have faith, but not ours. It is an experience that we do daily in the Middle East.Where we always live in contact with the Islamic world and the Jewish world, and this will be a reality increasingly present in the West, in school, in our work, in the university. We will be called more and more to deal with other religious realities different from ours, who question our faith in a different way from what it is usual to do. And we will be called to welcome this reality more and more. On this, in the Middle East , we have an unbeatableexperience.
Also because, young people manage to speak where religions sometimes fail …
Religions don’t talk to each other, believers talk to each other, people talk to each other. Not the faiths. If we talk about faith, we never meet. We start from the people, from the meeting, and young people have a great experience of this, they certainly speak of their loves, but in the end they also speak of God, and speaking of God they make a comparison.
As a man of the West who has long lived in the Middle East, what are the strongest differences in the way of living the faith?
There is a difference in religiosity between East and West. In the West the difference between the lay sphere, the social sphere and the religious sphere is clear. In the East, religiosity coincides with identity. Religious attendances, liturgies, participation in celebrations are a way of expressing one’s identity. In both realities, in the East and in the West, we need to move from a received an identity religiosity to a religiosity as experience.
We often talk about young people questioning adults, and they ask for answers from them. But what should young people do?
Young people have always wanted answers from adults, but adults too have a lot of expectations about young people. I think we must remind young people that they have not arrived. You do not stay young forever. Their purpose is to become adults. Responsible adults who do better what we have done.
However, we are faced with a crisis of faith. Where has it failed in these years?
The problem is always the need to pass from the received religiosity to the faith that is experience. We said this in the Synod’s discussions, quoting Paul VI: young people do not want to hear teachers, but witnesses, and if they want masters it is because they are witnesses. We need to start from there.
The synod will be a success if
It does not have to be successful, it must bear fruit. And fruits will be there in the long times. They never arrive the next day.
You are many synod fathers at the first experience. What do you see for the future of the Church?
I see a young Church, with many simple but clear ideas. And I think there is reason to hope for the future.
Interview by Andrea Gagliarducci (Vatican City)