The world’s youngest cardinal, 51-year-old Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, insists the key question before the Synod of Bishops is: “What is God trying to tell us through young people?”
Finding better ways to pass the Faith on to younger generations is one part of the task, the cardinal told reporters on the fringes of the synod. The other part is to encourage them and support them in sharing the Faith with others.
Participants in the synod of bishops – the 267 voting bishops, priests and religious brothers, as well as the 72 experts and observers – are reflecting on what they hear in the synod’s general assembly sessions to make suggestions for a final synod document. The Vatican does not publish the texts of speeches given in the sessions but allows the bishops to do so.
Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards of Melbourne, addressing the synod, suggested taking St John Vianney and his experience in Ars, France, as a model.
Moving to Ars, the bishop said, St John Vianney did not know exactly where the town was, so he convinced a shepherd to take him, promising, “If you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to Heaven.”
And once the priest arrived in the town, he said, he got to know it and its people, not treating it “as a version of the previous parish where he had worked.”
“We stand at the edge of a new era,” Bishop Edwards told the synod. “We knew how to be Church in the past, how to pass on the Faith and how to be effective missionaries,” but “at least some of what we did isn’t effective anymore.”