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‘Give young people the confidence to follow Jesus’—bishops’ issue messages to youth

We must encourage young people not to be shy about their Faith, and priests and bishops have a duty to accompany young people towards Jesus Christ, two Scots bishops said at the Synod on young people, Faith and vocations. — By Peter Diamond and Ryan McDougall

Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrew’s & Edinburgh is in Rome until October 28 to discuss the issue of ‘Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment’ and made his intervention on young people at a session chaired by Pope Francis on October 9.

“We bishops and priests cannot delegate away or dispense ourselves from this duty towards young people, no matter how unlikely or unworthy—or even old!—we may think ourselves to be,” he said.

The Synod of Bishops is an assembly of bishops from around the world who assist Pope Francis by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church.

When making his intervention, Archbishop Cushley highlighted Scotland’s national patron, St Andrew, as a model of youthful, apostolic accompaniment, saying that ‘Andrew didn’t send Peter to Jesus, he went with Peter, he accompanied him; in other words he brought him to Jesus.’

Archbishop Cushley added that ‘many can bring our young people to Christ’ but ‘I believe that bishops and priests, with the heart of true pastors, are among the best placed to bring them to the Lord.’

He added that ‘a priest should not attract disciples to himself, but be a fellow disciple, and make disciples for Christ.’ And he said that ‘both the messenger and the message must be authentic and credible.’

“We cannot simply exhort the young to love and follow Christ—we must live it ourselves first, then preach His Word and explain it to them,” he said. The destination of this process of accompaniment, he proposed, has to be Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Catholic Faith.

“We must bring young people to the whole of the Apostolic Faith,” Archbishop Cushley said. “This is not out of concern with laws and traditions for their own sake, but because this is what will communicate to them the fully Divine personality of Jesus.”

He added: “Ultimately, I believe that we have a duty as pastors that we cannot leave to others. Let’s not send them to Christ, as if it were someone else’s responsibility: rather, as fathers, as brothers, let’s bring our young people to Christ, as fellow disciples.

Meanwhile, Bishop Brian McGee of Argyll and the Isles Diocese told Vatican News: “I’ve always found young people to be really good people; they’re great, but they can be disconnected from the Church.”

The bishop added that although young people are ‘open to encounters with Christ,’ it is important to ‘walk with young people, to accompany them, to help them become more spiritual to discover their spiritual selves.

He added that accompanying young people is important ‘particularly in the West today, to help our young people to pray.’

“Our young people do have a big heart and if we can encourage them and show them ways of living a life of service whether it be in their own community, whether it be even within their families or looking after others further away, then that link between prayer and action I think is something that would be great to see stressed and coming out of the synod,” he said.

The bishop said that in Argyll and the Isles it can be difficult to bring young people together, due to the fact that the communities are somewhat scattered or isolated, making it harder for young Catholics to meet one another.

Having so few Catholic schools in the diocese furthers the dilemma, he said.

Young people in the western world, he added, are ‘shy about their Faith,’ due to how secular Europe and the UK are.

The bishop said he recently took three young Catholics from each deanery in his diocese to Africa with him, in order for them to see how open and happy people there are to talk about being Catholic.

He added: “Another point was we were going to an HIV/AIDS clinic called Live with Hope, which is run by a Scottish Sister —Sr Placida—who is from the same town as myself. It’s been running for 18 years, and I wanted them to see it, to work there, to volunteer and to share the life of the poor so that after a month they would appreciate more what it means to be poor in the world and to come back as an ambassador for the poor.

“Then the other thing I was hoping for was in Scotland, and in much of the EU, people are shy to show their Faith: they’re embarrassed now because it’s so secular. In Africa it’s the exact opposite: people are exuberant about their Faith—it’s so natural to talk about God—and I wanted them to experience that to give them the confidence to be a follower of Jesus.”

 

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