ROME — On the eve of Palm Sunday, Pope Francis gave young people several missions: to ask their grandparents what their dreams were; to work to make those dreams reality; and to let their bishops and the pope himself know what they need from the church.
Officially launching the youths’ preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops and for World Youth Day 2019 in Panama, Pope Francis gathered with youths and young adults for an prayer vigil April 8 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The 80-year-old pope surprised some people with two references to his own age, first pointing out that while they are preparing for the future, “at my age we are preparing to go.” The young people present objected loudly. “No?” the pope responded, “Who can guarantee life? No one.”
Later, returning to his appeal that they speak to their grandparents, the pope said, “I don’t know if it will be me, but the pope will be in Panama and he will ask you, ‘Did you speak with your elders?’”
The theme of the world Synod of Bishops, which will meet in October 2018, is: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
“But let’s just call it, ‘the synod of young people,’” the pope said. It should be “a synod from which no young person feels excluded.”
The church could hold a synod involving Catholic youths active in parish life or Catholic organizations and lay movements. But Pope Francis said that is not what the church or young people need.
“This is the synod of young people and we all want to hear them.”