ROME – In Rome, we met with Archbishop Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, involved in the Synod on Youth taking place in the Vatican since the beginning of October. The encounter which took place on Thursday, October 25, was the occasion to take stock on the work of the Synodal work that sees the bishops of the whole world committed to the delicate theme of young people.
On a side street of the Via della Conciliazione, a short distance from St. Peter’s, we meet Archbishop Pizzaballa, who with enthusiasm and availability answers our questions on the Synod and, by his presence, on the contribution of the Church of the Holy is having on the discussion.
Archbishop Pizzaballa, before jumping into the status of the Synod’s work, can you give us an overall view on the conditions of young people of the Holy Land?
The youth of the Holy Land are no different than those of the rest of the world, above all from the human viewpoint. They are full of expectations, projects, dreams. Naturally, they also have a bit of frustration, a bit of disappointment, a bit of anger, typical of the world’s youth. To our youth of the Holy Land, we must then add the complex social, political and religious context, where the Palestinian question is on the agenda of the day, with very difficult social prospects for work, for the families. But in the Synod I noticed that two thirds of the bishops, if not more, said the same thing. From Africa, Asia, Latin America, there are young people who are full of life, wanting to change the world but find themselves facing an extremely poor and frustrating social situation also from a political standpoint.
What can you tell us concerning the difference between the problems of our youth (those of the Holy Land) and European youth?
Europe has different dynamics. There are social problems for all but not of the gravity that we have (in the Holy Land, ed.). In Europe you must work above all in the area of transmitting the faith, which no longer exists. Whereas in the Middle East the faith is still passed on by the family but, it is still a limited faith in a religious and social context that then – and this is the challenge that youth have – must become experience.
From your previous public speeches and interviews key points on the subject of young people have emerged, above all regarding the urgency of becoming adults and the lack of communication between the needs of the young and the answers of the Church. Can you tell us about this?
We have talked about young people. But young people are not a world unto themselves. There is an intergenerational aspect, of course, but the perspective of the young is to become adults. Then they can stay young at heart, one can be youthful; but they must become adults, adults also in the faith. Intergenerational conflicts are typical of every time and they are part of the dynamics of growth. But we cannot forget that we must not create a “juvenile” spirit. The duty of the young is to grow to become adults. It is our life.
The fact that compared to two or three generations ago, when families had a fundamental role in transmitting the faith, the family is no longer the channel, the environment in which such transmission is realized. How can the Church today replace families in this important role?
I believe that there is only one way: witness. The young do not want to hear lessons or catechism. Even today you can meet wonderful persons and after meeting them you say: “truly Jesus is risen, I met a person who is full of life.” As a community, a Christian community, we find it more difficult to transmit this experience. And I believe that the challenge is this. Being with young people, and also listening to their expectations, I believe helps us find at least the way, the form, to transmit this experience as community.
“Clericalism” has been spoken about…
It is one of the themes that emerged in the Synod and about which we spoke a lot. Clericalism is a barrier. Clericalism means that there is someone privileged who is the priest and then the others around him. But instead, the preposition “with” stood out most in the Synod. So it is not the priests, the Church, on the one hand, and on the other hand the young people. The young are part of the Church. They are not “something” to harness.
Interviewed by Filippo De Grazia