Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

Cardinal reflects on first days of synod on youth

Following the first days of the synod, Cardinal Vincent reflected on the proceedings so far. 


The synod of bishops on young people, faith and discernment is now two and a half days old and it’s becoming very obvious that a pattern is emerging. These two days we’ve heard some wonderful contributions full of energy, full of life, sometimes full of anger, and full of hope. One of the things that has struck me very much is the realism in the discussion. It’s a realism which has been promoted, or provoked, by the scandals of the abuse of young people within the Church. There’s no pretending and it’s almost as if that is provoking everybody in the synod hall to look very realistically and to be able to say how sorry we are for many things in the past, obviously for the abuse of children.

We’ve also heard expressions of deep regret about the failure of parents to accompany their children. I heard one heart-rending story of a Filipino father who worked for 30 years in Rome to support his family back in the Philippines. Now, his children, who are married with their own children, are turning away from him because they felt abandoned by him in their childhood. There is this sense of realistic reappraisal of the past and the sorrow that that evokes, but also a sense of how we have to give and receive across the generations with a freshness and a new start.

There is a quality of understanding of the importance of generations talking to each other. Sometimes in the synod, we’re talking about young people. Sometimes things are addressed to young people. But to me the most important strain which is there is about us talking together and learning from each other. There was a wonderful phrase this morning, a quotation from Pope St John XXIII, when he said: ‘Young people need to remember that the world didn’t begin with them; it existed before them. And old people have to remember that the world will exist after them.’ So it’s almost as if together we can help young people to discover their memory, to whom it is that they belong: the story, their deepest identity, their memory. And, with young people, we older folk can learn again about the virtue of hope and see in young people our present and future hope. It’s that conversation that I think the synod is beginning to shape up.


Photo by Mazur/

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