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Vatican seeks youth input for upcoming meeting of bishops

Posted 6:48 a.m. Friday
Updated 6:49 a.m. Friday

— Pope Francis is reaching out to young people for the next round of church-wide consultations, soliciting their direct input for an upcoming meeting of the world's bishops on the plight of young Catholics today and their faith.

The Vatican on Friday issued the preparatory document for the 2018 synod, which comes as the Catholic Church is still reeling from the fallout from the last synod and Francis' controversial outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Organizers insisted young people will actually be involved in the upcoming synod process, which consists of bishops meeting behind closed doors for two weeks to develop recommendations for a future papal document.

The Vatican plans to put a questionnaire on a future Vatican website, www.sinodogiovani2018.va, to solicit input from ordinary youths to help form the basis of a draft text. Monsignor Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the office organizing the meeting, said the answers would be evaluated "scientifically" to weed out responses that aren't serious.

In addition, young Catholics would be invited to attend the synod and offer their testimony, but without any right to vote on the final text.

Another questionnaire is being sent to priests, bishops and cardinals around the world, but some of the location-specific questions immediately raised eyebrows about preconceptions going into the meeting.

American prelates, for example, were asked to discuss how they respond to situations of extreme violence among young people, including gangs, jail, drug addiction and forced marriage.

European prelates were merely asked how they respond to young people who feel excluded from the political and economic system and whether intergenerational bonds still exist. Asian bishops were asked how they can better use the "language" of sport, media and music in their ministry to young people.

Francis has sparked a mini-revolution in the church by hinting at a flexible approach to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion. The issue was hotly debated during back-to-back synods on the family in 2014 and 2015, but conservatives have accused Francis of going beyond what the bishops agreed.

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