Young people

Synod on Young People: mgr. Bacaouni (Haifa), “staying faithful to Jesus, that’s the challenge for young people in the Holy Land”

“The Synod held by the Pope on Young People will help us understand how to approach and listen to them. We must go to them, that’s the first thing. Now’s not the time to wait for them in church or in our offices”. Mgr. George Wadih Bacaouni, Melkite archbishop of Haifa and pro-president of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, repeats a concept he expressed many times before, as he comments on the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment”. Mgr. Bacaouni, who will be at the Synod as a synodal father, speaks of the contribution made by the Churches of the Holy Land to the Synod by trying to outline a picture of “our young people” in Israel and Palestine, countries affected by a decade-long conflict that sees no end and still goes on, with all its baggage of violence, death and political, social and economic instability. Those who take the toll of all this, he says, “are mainly the young generations. There are many young people who want to leave the country in search of a better future in quieter, more stable countries. And a lot of them are Christians. As a Church, we do all we can to help them stay. But being close to one’s spiritual leaders is not enough, proper policies are also needed”. And that’s where the problem of being a minority comes into play, a problem that mgr. Bacaouni wishes to bring to the synodal fathers’ attention. “We grow, and our young people grow with us, in the awareness that we are a minority. We have no political delegates, we do not have the same rights as other people, we have no influence, and we do not have much voice in our society”. The many challenges that await young Christians in the Holy Land, according to mgr. Bacaouni, include “first and foremost, the difficulty of sharing one’s lifestyle with their peers, especially for university students. That’s why – the archbishop of Haifa explains – they cannot easily express themselves as to religion”. Even more difficult, then, “is having a job, so they could have a family and find a Christian partner to share their life with and have children to raise in faith”. But the biggest challenge is “how to stay faithful to Jesus”, points out mgr. Bacaouni, who hopes the Synod may be “a prophetic time”, in which “we can try to see how to bring Christ and young people’s good back at the centre of the mission of the Church. The Middle East is probably the region that has the highest number of young people in the world. My hope is that with the Synod the Church may change its approach to young people”.