By Percival Holt
New Delhi, July 1, 2019: The June 19-22 International Youth Forum was my third visit to Rome. I was invited by the “Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life” as one of the few Synod auditors who represented the Synod from different continents.
The organizers also invited two new delegates from many countries. The Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India (CCBI) invited Becaremeo Nongtdu from Jowai diocese (Meghalaya) and Jesvita Princy Quadras from Mangalore (Karnataka) to represent India. In all, the three of us travelled to Rome together on June 17 and returned on June 24.
The theme was “Youth in Action in a Synodal Church” to reflect and evaluate the post Synodal developments in our countries, therefore it was also called the “Post Synodal Meeting”.
The Dicastery had requested me to be one of the six panelists on the first day to share with the 350 odd delegates my experience of the Synod and how it has impacted my life and my local church.
I was glad to share my rich experience of the synod and how it changed my perspective of the universal church as well as the church in India. I shared about the declaration of “Year of Youth” in more than 30 dioceses across India and that I was invited to share the synod experience across more than 30 dioceses, five seminaries, four national seminars and various other platforms throughout the country.
I also shared about the National Conference we organized on the Synod theme last October and the National Conference this year that will focus on the post-Synodal implementation and Christus Vivit (Christ is alive). Many were impressed on seeing the souvenir cum resource book of our programme including Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
I also showed the Christus Vivit we published in India within two weeks at a price less than $1, of which more than 3000 copies were circulated across dioceses within one month, together with over 1,000 copies of YouCat Bible. I must tell you that India is among the very few countries in the world with such an organized youth ministry and so much happening throughout the country on the whole.
On the contrary, the major highlights of the forum in general from the representatives of other countries and continents were the following:
1. Common people including priests and religious still have not heard about the Synod and Christus Vivit.
2. Bishops and priests are not taking much interest in studying the synod and Christus Vivit, since there is an apostolic document every year.
3. Christus Vivit has not reached the clergy and youth, mainly due to not being translated into local languages and high prices.
4. Lack of a proper system and networked collaboration across countries to spread the synod.
But I must say, on the whole none of these were the concerns in India because we shared summaries and presentations on the Synod across all dioceses immediately. We are trying to translate Christus Vivit and YouCat Bible into Hindi and other regional languages. Several dioceses and institutions are organizing programs and awareness on the Synod and Christus Vivit. When I shared all this in my panel sharing, there were huge applauses.
Later, during conversations many appreciated the efforts by the Church in India towards young people and implementing the Synod. In fact, one evening while we were seated at the same table, Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello (Secretary to the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life) mentioned to Cardinal Farrell that India and Philippines are leading the way in youth ministry in Asia, which personally was a proud moment for us from India.
Many participants from other countries shared with us that they had a different image of the Church and faith in India being a minority and were amazed to know how deeply rooted we are into ministry and a life of faith today. I also received many such appreciative and encouraging comments from many people during the Synod, including in many media interviews too.
I was also asked to moderate one of the language groups during this forum and therefore also the team that summarized the forum into a statement of one page that was presented to Pope Francis on June 22.
In moderating the group, I was able to share valuable ideas and practical suggestions towards how we are striving to spread the synod in our country and how to make youth ministry more effective in practical ways. Apart from this, Becaremeo and Jesvita were also part of different groups where they made significant contributions.
This forum was also a transformative experience for the two of them, as it was their first experience of meeting young people from all over the world representing their countries. This gave them a new perspective of the universal church and Church in India as shared by them, besides they also had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis in a private audience at the Papal Palace, which was deeply moving.
Before leaving for the Forum, I was interviewed by Matters India in which I shared about the forum, its objectives and our role as an Indian delegation. In Rome, I was requested for an interview by Asia News, which was also joined by Becaremeo and Jesvita. We were interviewed for one hour in which we were asked to share our individual backgrounds, the general highlights of the forum and our role as young people in the Church and society.
Though personally we were not happy with the article published, which appears mostly negative, twisted and sensational, but it was another learning experience too, especially for Becaremeo and Jesvita, it being their first interview.
I am once again energized and enthusiastic to take the synod forward in our country. It is my personal conviction to share about the synod as well as Christus Vivit to our clergy, religious and young people. As part of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), we have decided to have study sessions on the two in all our programmes, especially the National Conference in October 2019 at Hyderabad. We are also planning to come up with a series of resource presentations and summaries on Christus Vivit.
At the national level, we are trying to collaborate with various youth movements in India as well as regional commissions to better understand and implement the synod in our ecclesial communities.
As the president of ICYM, I assure you to do my best in using this movement to reach out to as many young people and rekindle the joy and hope of Christ who is alive in us forever. As an individual who has been deeply touched, transformed and well formed by the Synod experience I will always do my best to share the vision of the Church, especially the new Synodal church that Pope Francis talks about, with all our faithful and especially young people.
(Percival Holt is national president of Indian Catholic Youth Movement, Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India).