Noemi, 28, from Paraguay, of Brazilian descent, is currently completing a research doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Perugia, Italy.

In March 2018, she participated in the pre-Synodal meeting convened by Pope Francis in order to listen to young people from all over the world and prepare the subsequent Synod on Young People with them and for them.

The Apostolic Exhortation “Christus Vivit” is one of the outcomes of this intergenerational process. Many young people have already read it and spread it among their own groups and peers.

In this document, the Pope repeatedly stresses the need for the Church to listen to young people. Has this been happening?

Noemí Sánchez, Focolare youth representative from Paraguay, greets Pope Francis during Palm Sunday last year.
Noemí Sánchez, Focolare youth representative from Paraguay, greets Pope Francis during Palm Sunday last year.

I think the whole process around the Synod of October 2018 has been a clear example of the Church’s sincere desire to listen to us and welcome us wholeheartedly.
There were 300 of us at the pre-Synod, from many different countries. We were free to say whatever we thought, as the Pope himself invited us to do.

So, the “adults” listened to us and encouraged dialogue with us. What matters now is that this two-way experience between generations should take place in different environments, such as in parishes and Christian communities.

More than once, the Pope refers to the restlessness so characteristic of youth. Do you believe that it’s possible to listen to the voice of God in the midst of all the sounds, voices and digital stimuli which bombard us today?

The Pope coins the phrase “flying on their two feet” because actually we young people are never really still, but always looking out for something new. However, we also hit limits caused by our lack of experience, for example, or the fear of making a big mistake in any decisive choice. “High speed” is not enough, we also need meaning in what we do.

Encouragement from being around the generations before us is always crucial to achieving this, and never more so than today with all its “false alarms.” Having experienced it for myself, I believe that the voice of God always makes itself heard through the “amplifiers” of love.

Pope Francis with the bishops and youth delegates to the Synod on Young People last October 2018
Pope Francis with the bishops and youth delegates to the Synod on Young People last October 2018

Why do you think so few young people today want to embark upon a serious journey of faith? What’s lacking and what are they searching for?

I think there are many reasons for this: a growing disillusionment, ignorance or even laziness. Many of us don’t have a deep knowledge of the faith, and so we young people can become victims of the “rootless” society the Pope condemns all the time. At the same time, we feel a strong desire to get involved in social causes.

There is a widespread sensitivity to the arts, as well as the desire to build lasting and meaningful relationships, to live authentically for something that gives meaning to our life, searching for authentic role models. I definitely think today’s youth are searching for God, it’s just that they are not always aware of it.

In your opinion, what is the real contribution the Synod on Young People and this apostolic exhortation are having on the life of the Church, and in particular on young people in the Church?

This Synod has undoubtedly brought to light something new (a novum) in the history of the Church as regards methodology and its realistic approach. What came out most, I think, was interreligious dialogue and how essential and enriching it is for the whole life of the Church.

The Exhortation is a real treasure for all young people, and not only for Catholics. When I read it, rather than a formal document of the Church, it seemed more like a long letter from your grandfather, or from an old friend who loves you and really knows how to get through to you.

Someone who can tell you what you need in this particular moment of your life in order not to fall away, but who encourages you to get up and keep on trying again and again. To keep on believing in beauty, in goodness, and in love, in the truest nature of humanity – which is also divine.

To believe in the possibility of reaching full happiness whatever sufferings and problems are part of life. To learn how to overcome them with courage and commitment.

Interview by Stefania Tanesini
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