Kids Skipping Mass? Blame Ignorance, Not Rebellion

Vatican Youth Director Considers Faith in the Young

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2008 ( Young people today are not against the Church; they simply don’t know much about it, says the new director of the youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

With his new role, French Father Eric Jacquinet will be one of the key figures in the organization of the next World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. He spoke with L’Osservatore Romano about the causes for young people’s estrangement from the Church, principally noting «the family’s inability to transmit the faith.»

The priest, a member of the Emmanuel community, spoke about his work with estranged young people in the Archdiocese of Lyon. «In the Venissieux parish,» he said, «65% of young people are children of separated parents, and Christians are in a minority amid the immigrants. We had to evangelize door-to-door.»

Among today’s youth «more than a need of spirituality, there is a strong emotional desire, which generates a certain confusion with the spiritual experience. Worse still, this is not enough to foster adult persons in the faith,» Father Jacquinet noted.

The priest spoke about his experiences at World Youth Days, which he started to follow since they began in Rome, Italy, in 1985 and in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in 1989.

«In Santiago I was responsible for a bus with 24 French young people and as many others of ex-Czechoslovakia,» he explained. «Thus I came to know the Church in the catacombs: They had permission to travel only as tourists, and among them was a clandestine priest. Only two people in the group knew his true identity.»

Father Jacquinet participated in this year’s youth day in Sydney, to learn about the work that awaits him. He observed, «I was able to see how this intensely secularized Australian metropolis was transformed by the presence of the young people on the streets. Local priests themselves, some of whom were very skeptical, were convinced, because the Spirit did something grandiose, and Cardinal Pell met the challenge.»

Regarding the challenges that he will face in organizing the next World Youth Day, the priest mentioned two important issues. On one hand, he pointed out «the need to accompany the experience of the days with the growth of a mature faith.»

On the other hand, it is important to foster «the reception of pilgrims by the dioceses of the host country.» To this end, work has already begun with Cardinal Antonio María Rouco, archbishop of Madrid, and with other Spanish dioceses.

«I want to work with everyone, above all with the delegations of youth ministry of the five continents,» Father Jacquinet affirmed.

Looking beyond the youth days, the new laity council official explained that it is necessary to promote youth ministry throughout the world. «Places of reflection are needed,» he said, «for an ever more fragile generation. […] The problem lies in the root, in that vacuum that young people need to fill and, [in order] to fill it, we must give concrete answers.»

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