“When you see a priest in danger . . . losing his direction, have the courage to remind him of his commitment to God and with his people, you yourselves proclaim the Gospel to him and encourage him to remain on the good path”: is the mission Pope Francis entrusted to young people, in the course of his Apostolic Exhortation “Christus Vivit” (Christ Is Alive), published on April 2, 2019.
Five months after the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Pope addresses the latter in a lively personal tone, encouraging them to take their place in the Church and also to act to prevent abuses committed within her.
In fact, he recalls the present crisis, a subject that young people taking part in the October 2018 Synod also brought up: “Recently, urgent appeals have been made for us to hear the cry of the victims of different kinds of abuse perpetrated by some bishops, priests, religious and laypersons. These sins cause their victims ‘sufferings that can last a lifetime and that no repentance can remedy. This phenomenon is widespread in society and it also affects the Church and represents a serious obstacle to her mission’.” (n. 95).
“The scourge of the sexual abuse of minors is, and historically has been, a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies,” affirms the Pontiff (n. 96), who castigates clericalism as terrain of these “abominations”: “Doubtless, such clericalism can make consecrated persons lose respect for the sacred and inalienable worth of each person and of his or her freedom.” (n. 98)
However, the Holy Father continues, “the priests who commit these horrible crimes do not constitute the majority who exercise a faithful and generous ministry.” He asks young people “to let themselves be stimulated by this majority: and to contribute their “inestimable help for something that is fundamental: prevention which makes possible avoiding these atrocities being repeated.”
And the Pope exhorts: “When you see a priest in danger, because he has lost the joy of his ministry, because he seeks affective compensations or is in the process of losing his direction, have the courage to remind him of his commitment to God and with his people, you yourselves proclaim the Gospel to him, and encourage him to remain on the good path.”
“This black cloud also becomes a challenge for young people who love Jesus Christ and His Church, because their contribution can be important in face of this wound if they put into play their capacity to renew, claim, exact coherence and witness, dream again and reinvent.”
Confidence in Young People and in the People of God
For Monsignor Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, this mission reflects the “great confidence” that the Pope accords young people. ”He affirms that they must become protagonists of the Church . . . I see in this invitation an act of confidence of the Pope ,” he said on presenting the document.
This challenge shares in the hope that the Pope places in the holy and patient faithful People of God, sustained and vivified by the Holy Spirit”: “it will be precisely this holy People of God who will free us from the scourge of clericalism, he affirmed several times in the course of his address.
From the beginning of the document, the Pope asks young people to help the Church “to remain young, not to fall into corruption, not to install herself and become proud, not to be transformed into a sect, to be poorer and more of a witness, to be close to the least and the marginalized, to fight for justice, and to let herself be questioned with humility” . . . and, finally, to contribute “the beauty of youth.”
“One doesn’t abandon a Mother when she is wounded, but one accompanies her,” concludes the Pontiff who hopes that this difficult moment will be. “Young people will be all the more helpful if they feel fully a part of the “holy and patient, faithful People of God, borne up and enlivened by the Holy Spirit”, for “it will be precisely this holy People of God to liberate us from the plague of clericalism, which is the fertile ground for all these disgraces.” (n. 102)