One auditor: Nathalie Becquart, xaverian
The Synod involves auditors who are participate in all sessions. Each one make a presentation in the plenary session. They also take part in language groups. There are some 35 young people and some 10 adult Church leaders. We met Sister Nathalie Becquart, Xavière, who, until recently, was Director of the Youth Evangelization Service at the French Bishops' Conference.
Nathalie, what is the importance and impact of the presence of some 35 young people during the work of this synod of bishops?
Young people play a major role in this synod first of all through their presence, their very simple way of being, and the fact that they react, sometimes with applause, to the various interventions. In addition, each one of them makes a four-minute intervention. They speak very frankly about what they think is wrong, what they would like to see changed in the Church. They have a major role in language groups, where they are listened to and their ideas solicited. I would add that we feel that most bishops have prepared their interventions with young people before coming here.
Freedom - including freedom of speech - is a value dear to young people in general; it is also central to Ignatian spirituality. How is this dimension of faith lived out in the context of the Synod?
The main dimension of the Synod will undoubtedly be the experience of deep listening lived here. Everyone is speaking. What sets the tone for freedom of speech is Pope Francis who, in his opening speech, invited everyone to speak frankly. Young people do it extremely strongly. Others too: I am surprised to hear bishops speaking in a bold, courageous way. Bishops who have experienced other synods say how different it is this time. There is an informal, joyful tone. Things have moved and we feel they will move again. It is the freedom of the Holy Spirit that is felt, the breath of the Spirit, the breath of Vatican II and the freedom of young people who live their faith in the way they are.
You are a religious, a Xavière, member of the larger Ignatian family. Based on your experience of the Synod, how could our spirituality be appropriate for the young people of our time?
I think we are living a Kairos moment for Ignatian spirituality. We have a Jesuit pope - it does not happen very often! - because we are in an era of the Church and society where the key words are discernment and accompaniment. The experience of young people in the age of globalization is that they have a wealth of opportunities. Their main question is “How to make the right choices, what benchmarks to adopt?” Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy are eagerly awaited in this context, and well beyond our Ignatian circles. The whole Church can benefit from it. It must be shared in particular because there is a great need for formation in accompaniment and discernment.
In closing, I would like to add that I was touched by many of the interventions. But in particular – and this is in line with a theme promoted by Jesuits and the Ignatian family – by the situation of migrants. The Jesuit Michael Czerny affirmed that what young migrants and refugees experience in the transition from one reality to another, in their capacity for resilience and enculturation, is a real laboratory. This tells us something about the path we must live in the Church today. The Church itself is on a migration path from an old culture to a new culture, to new languages. It is a very strong call to live a changing world, with the resilience and strength that so many young migrants show as they go through hardships and find a new way of life.