By Ann Marie Foley - 04 April, 2019
“The early publication of the document is a welcome sign that Pope Francis recognises the urgency of a renewed emphasis on creating new young disciples of Jesus” – Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry.
Bishop Donal McKeown has welcomed Pope Francis’ latest publication, Christ is Alive, describing it as “accessible and inspiring”. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, written after the youth synod last year, has the full title Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive), and was made available on the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference website on Tuesday (2 April 2019).
Bishop McKeown said: “The early publication of the document is a welcome sign that Pope Francis recognises the urgency of a renewed emphasis on creating new young disciples of Jesus.”
He explained that youth ministry is essential for two reasons: the many young people crying out for good news in their lives and, as Pope John Paul II said in 1979 in Ireland, “every new generation is like a new continent to be conquered for Christ”.
“Christ is Alive develops these important pastoral challenges,” Bishop Donal McKeown said.
He said that Irish bishops had consulted with young people during the preparations for the Synod on Youth. This involved an initial dialogue with young people and youth leaders, which was followed up when they met with a representative group of youth directors who went to Rome in October for discussions with Archbishop Eamon Martin and Bishop McKeown. Bishops also met with young adults during their annual retreat, which took place in Knock last February.
“Looking forward, we have nominated two young people to attend an International Youth Forum in Rome, in June, and we welcome the setting up of Catholic Youth Ministry Ireland (CYMI) as a national forum for the mutual support of those involved in youth ministry across our island,” said the Bishop.
He encouraged everyone to read Christ is Alive: “So that the Church can – as widely as possible – speak into the lives of our families and parishes to proclaim the good news of God’s mercy and love for our young people.”
The document includes 9 chapters, divided into 299 paragraphs, which Pope Francis explains were inspired “by the wealth of reflections and conversations of the Synod” on young people.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh (President of the Bishops’ Conference) and Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry (Chair of the Bishops’ Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development), represented the bishops of Ireland at the 2018 Synod.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales had three delegates at the Synod in October: Cardinal Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Westminster), Bishop Ralph Heskett (Bishop of Hallam) and Bishop Mark O’Toole (Bishop of Plymouth).
Welcoming the publication of Christus Vivit, the Bishops’ Conference stated: “It brings back all the best features of the Synod of Bishops we attended last October: the vitality of young people; their love for the Church and for us Bishops; their willingness to face the difficult challenges before us; their capacity for prayer and a living, loving relationship with Jesus.”
They thanked Pope Francis for the document, which they said will now be read by many young people and “brought to bear on their lives”. They welcomed in particular the closing words of Christ is Alive: “The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us” (299).
The Bishops’ statement added that in the document Pope Francis asked everyone to reflect on today’s world where hunger, homelessness, violence, cruelty and exploitation “touch and diminish the lives of so many young people.”
Other challenges facing young people are: the rights and roles of women and the Church’s past (42); the exploitation of the images of young people (79); the desires, hurts and feelings of young people, including their sexuality (81); the digital world (86); and abuse of every kind (95).