Launching the Year of the Youth
The Philippine Church is now on the seventh year of its nine-year journey towards 2021, the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. Thus, 2019 is dedicated to the Youth; 2020 to Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue; and 2021 to missio ad gentes [mission to the nations]. This nine-year “novena” seeks the comprehensive renewal of our local Philippine Church.
This program of a spiritual journey to 2021 was promulgated by the Philippine bishops (CBCP) in 2012. It is pure coincidence that the Philippine “Youth” Year begins shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 World Synod of Bishops on the Youth. Yet, it is truly a felicitous occurrence! The Philippine Church will be able to draw upon many insights of Pope Francis and the Synod as it seeks to engage the youth and connect them with the Church.
Pope Francis determined the theme for the 2018 Synod of Bishops: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” In 2017 he wrote a letter to the youth of the world, telling them: “I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart.” This same perspective motivates the Philippine Church as it celebrates its “Year of the Youth.”
Come and see. In extending his invitation for the youth to become involved in renewing both the Church and society, Pope Francis notes: “I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: ‘Teacher, … where do you live?’ He replied, ‘Come and see’ (Jn 1:38).”
Pope Francis continues: “Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? Francis invites young people to “undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.” Here in the Philippines we clearly perceive the heartfelt invitation of Pope Francis to the youth to make this same “faith journey.”
Change and Renewal. In his 2017 letter Pope Francis recalled some events of the 2016 World Youth Day held in Krakow, Poland. He noted: “At the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: ‘Can we change things?’ And you shouted: ‘Yes’!”
Francis notes: “A better world can be built as a result of your efforts, your desire to change, and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit.” Thus, taking a cue from Pope Francis, the Philippine Church, during this Year of the Youth, eagerly seeks to engage and accompany the youth in their idealism and enthusiasm to renew both Church and society. We earnestly pray that the many pastoral efforts of our local Church will prove genuinely successful!