Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: Synod on Youth Blog Days 21-22

Last night: We prayed at the original World Youth Day cross for wisdom for the Synod Fathers. We had Eucharistic adoration and good quality “prayer and praise”. For me it was one of the best moments of the whole month.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney stands besides the original World Youth Day Cross with Australian synod observer, Sebastian Duhau.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney stands besides the original World Youth Day Cross with Australian synod observer, Sebastian Duhau.

Later, 36 youth delegates and some bishops piled into a pizzeria together for stuffed pumpkin flowers and more pizza than even a teenager could eat…

It was a pleasure joining them for prayer and dinner.
It was a pleasure joining them for prayer and dinner.

Today: After praying Terce, the Message to the Young People of the World was read. There was no vote on it but the fathers applauded.

The Relator-General gave an introduction, the text of the Final Document was distributed (in Italian only) and then read by the Special Secretaries and Archbishop Bruno Forte, while the simultaneous translators did their best to translate …

The final document has some inspiring even lyrical passages. Other parts are turgid and repetitive. Overall, it is far too long to be read by many young people, youth ministers or clergy. It will be necessary to prepare summaries and study guides.

By lunchtime we were only two-thirds through the long but rapid read. But it was time for a group photo with the Pope and we were given mementos.

The afternoon session started early and ended late. It included reading all the rest of the document – which some of the non-Italian speakers had rightly insisted upon – and then voting on each paragraph. All paragraphs of the document as presented were passed, though not all with equal enthusiasm.

On clergy child sexual abuse, many of us from countries that have been through this crisis wanted a clearer and stronger apology than is to be found in either the letter or the final document. We wanted a clear recognition of the harm done to the victims and of the failures of some Church leaders – and we wanted clear undertakings about what we will do to correct and prevent this going forward.

Others, for whom this seems a distant problem, however, thought even the little acknowledgment that survives in the letter and the final document was too much, or that it was a distraction from other matters important to their part of the world, or that these matters are best left to the February meeting that the Pope has called. For what it is worth, every young person I spoke to at the Synod wanted more not less on this.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney leave the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican on 3 October. PHOTO: CNS photo/Paul Haring
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney leave the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican on 3 October. PHOTO: CNS photo/Paul Haring

There was also controversy over the sections on sexuality, conscience, the role of women, synodality (a long treatment of this was inserted late in the process and sits uncomfortably with the rest of the text), and some other matters. But the whole process was very tightly controlled and there was no opportunity for further amendments that might have won unanimous support for a paragraph.

Of course, when 250 people are voting, you never know for sure why a particular person or group is voting for or against a particular paragraph. They might approve or disapprove of every idea and word in a paragraph, or of one particular idea or word, or of a change that was – or wasn’t – made to it after the previous examination, or of the whole drift of the document and the process by which it was created …

Pope Francis attends a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring
Pope Francis attends a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By about 8pm the final document had been passed and it was time for thank you speeches. The Pope spoke with some passion about our standing up for holy mother Church – whatever the just criticisms made of some of her sinful members and the vicious attacks on others or on the whole. We sang the Te Deum and will meet again tomorrow for the final Mass…

+Anthony Fisher op