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Pope Francis’ youth document

Pope Francis’ youth document

The most recent apostolic exhortation from our beloved Pope Francis is Christus Vivit (Christ Lives), issued on March 25, 2019.  Christus Vivitis the fruit of listening and discerning during the fifteenth assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 3-28, 2018 with the theme: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”  Francis’ text has a poetic, literary style; it is not a mere papal pronouncement.Commentators have asserted that Christus Vivit constitutes for the near future “a magna carta of youth and pastoral ministry.”

Exploring Christus Vivit.  In the opening lines of the documentone finds an “interpretive key” to the entire document.  The basic message that Francis wishes to send to young people and the entire People of God is that “Christ lives.”  He does not belong only to the past, but also to the present and the future; he is forever “the Living One.”

In addition, one finds a Marian perspective in the document.  An entire section (CV 43-48) is devoted to “Mary, the Young Woman of Nazareth” and her role in God’s plan of salvation in history and in contemporary times.

Another significant aspect of Christus Vivit is its style and its intended recipients.  It explicitly takes the form of a personal letter, written “with great affection” (CV 3) and addressed first and foremost to the young.  Francis writes in a style expressive of closeness, frankness, simplicity, tenderness and warmth.  Christus Vivit invites our personal response!

Christological emphases.  One cannot miss the clear focus on Christ in Christus Vivit, especially in its opening two paragraphs.  “Christ is alive!  He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world.  The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive” (CV 1).

“He is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you.  However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One.  He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again.  When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope” (CV 2).

Church: An open community.  What vision of Church emerges inChristus Vivit?  Pope Francis explores the relationship between the young and the entire People of God, both pastors and faithful.  There is not a separate “Church of the young” or a “Church with the young and for the young.”  There exists a single community, the Church—and the young are living and creative members of this one body.

Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of synodality (walking together) in the Church.  All segments of the Church (young, old, lay, ordained, religious, married, etc.) are to collaborate in building a better future—both in the Church and in society at large.

Francis also speaks on specific issues.  For example, he invites the entire Church to reach out to migrants, following a balanced approach to this often-divisive issue.  He also invites young people through media to share the beauty of their own personal experience of encounter with Christ, an important way to build up Christ’s Church.

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