FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – Speaking to the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting on Wednesday, Archbishop Christophe Pierre urged the importance of listening: To youth, to the Hispanic population, and to Pope Francis.
“Spiritual fatherhood and effective evangelization require listening,” the apostolic nuncio to the United States said June 13 at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
He said young people “need to be a priority for the Church in the United States” and that “we need to listen attentively to their voices,” which call for a real encounter with Christ, a welcoming community, “authorities who will accompany them and help them discover what truly interests and attracts them,” and an openness to their contributions.
Youths want a “personal, living encounter with Christ,” he said, “rather than a faith reduced to teaching and moralism.”
The archbishop said young people, he believes, desire “not merely Catholic content but holistic formation.”
He emphasized the importance of community in the face of social media and other problems. “Practical efforts to make parishes more welcoming and supportive might create the environment for young people to feel that the Church is where they belong.”
Responding to criticisms of the preparatory document for the youth synod, which was composed with help from young people, as a manifestation of their weak faith or “a wish list of what young people want rather than what they need,” he said it is “an honest expression of the reality of young people, which includes their frustration with institutional bureaucracy and the unwillingness of others to take them seriously.”
Pierre suggested that the bishops must “listen and offer our experience and wisdom, attracting them by our fidelity and the witness of our lives … We need to adhere more faithfully to the Tradition, against which they can, through experience and their encounter with us, test the coherence of the Catholic Faith.”
The youth synod will be an opportunity “to examine whether we have done something in our dioceses to facilitate the encounter with Christ,” he said, and evaluating our ability “to attract young people to Christ.” It is also a chance “to be innovative in creating ways for young people to contribute something to the Church.”
The nuncio also said there is a need to listen to the “emerging Hispanic and Latino population” in the U.S., focusing on the Fifth National Encuentro process.
The Encuentro process has helped to identify leaders within the Hispanic community, as well as pastoral priorities, he said.
It should also be a chance to re-examine strategies for fostering priestly and religious vocations among Hispanic youth, Pierre noted.
“How can it be that when the majority of young Catholics in the United States is now Hispanic or Latino, there are so few seminarians, priests and religious of Hispanic descent?”
The nuncio finally emphasized the importance of listening to Pope Francis, in particular his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, saying holiness is the “lifeblood of the New Evangelization.”
He pointed in particular to the importance of the beatitudes and to the pope’s warnings against Pelagianism and gnosticism.