ROME – On Wednesday the Vatican released the list of figures who will shape the concluding document of the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, and based on the composition of the group, conservatives in the Church may feel anew that they’ve been given a cold shoulder.
Elected by region, the five prelates chosen by a vote within the synod hall to draft the final document are: Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico City, a papal delegate to the synod; Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Prefect of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and a member of the pope’s “C9” advisory council; Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti, Italy, also a member of the synod’s organizing council; and Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, also a papal delegate.
In addition, Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia, general relator of the synod, are also automatically part of the committee due to their roles in the meeting.
Two others who will serve as secretaries are Father Giacomo Costa, a papal delegate to the synod, who is also director of the magazine Aggiornamenti Sociali, president of the “San Fedele Cultural Foundation” and vice president of the “Carlo Maria Martini Foundation”; and Father Rossano Sala, professor of youth pastoral outreach at the Pontifical Salesian University and director of the Italian magazine Note di Pastorale Giovanile.
Pope Francis also handpicked three others for the commission: Brazilian Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary for the Vatican’s dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; and Father Eduardo Gonzalo Redondo, head of vocations ministry in Cuba.
In general, the picks are all seen as generally belonging to a more progressive wing of the Church sympathetic to the tone of the Francis papacy. The three delegates named by Francis himself are also for the most part close papal friends and collaborators.
Shevchuk, for instance, a significant appointment since he represents the largest of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches, is an old friend of Francis from his time in Buenos Aires.
Mello, born in Rio de Janiero, is also seen as a trusted ally, as he was tapped in May 2007 as a member of the drafting commission for the final document of the Fifth Latin American Episcopal Conference held in Aparecida, Brazil. Francis, who was still cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires and who was serving as president of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference at the time, was head of the commission.
Names on the drafting committee were a major point of contention during the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, with uproar over the fact that initially, no prelates representing the African continent had been named, which followed comments by prominent German Cardinal Walter Kasper saying problems in the African Church were “impossible” for the synod to solve, and that African prelates “should not tell us too much what we have to do.”
Though Kasper drew heavy fire for the comments, with many accusing him of racism, Francis quelled the clamor over the drafting committee with the appointment of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, who had been critical of the synod’s mid-term report.
Even after the addition of Napier, some prelates complained that during the drafting process, not everyone’s perspective was being heard, and that the final text took a more liberal Western approach rather than offering a global perspective.
As usual, once the final document has been voted on and approved by synod participants, it will likely be the basis of another post-synodal apostolic exhortation for Francis. His most recent was the controversial Amoris Laetitia, which continues to draw fire for opening a cautious door for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments.
So far major emerging themes of the synod discussions are the need to address the child sexual abuse scandals in Catholicism, migration, women, the difficulties of conveying the faith in a secular world, various challenges related to living in a digital world and the challenge of communicating the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
In Wednesday’s discussions, the big points were the importance for young people to pray and to see their parents pray and for young people to have examples in the faith who can accompany them in navigating life’s challenges in a post-truth era that is rapidly changing.
Mention was also made of the responsibility for everyone, including young people, to get involved in politics as an act of “charity” and mission in pursuing and promoting the common good.