A stark message from a Vincentian Cardinal at the Youth Synod
“The question … in Africa for the youth is not what we talk [about] much here in the synod… In [the] African context, it is survival: what you have to eat, to dress, and whether you get shelter.”
“The modern challenges we hear, say from Europe or the Americas, about loneliness, about suicide or drugs, and generational differences between young people and the elders … that’s not happening there,”
“The Catholic youth, they like their church; they come to their church…The difficulty is what happens after church.”
Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, CM, is attending the Youth Synod under three titles. This Vincentian, who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015, heads the archdiocese of Addis Ababa, is the president of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is also president of the Council of the Ethiopian Church.
Cardinal Souraphiel focused the interview reported by NCR on the perspectives he is carrying with him from young people across eastern Africa. He also spoke about the atmosphere inside the meeting hall during the synod’s discussions, and expressed his appreciation for Francis’ “approach to the social questions” of our era.
He said the 267 prelates and 72 auditors taking part in the synod recognize that the situation of young people varies in different parts of the world.
You cannot speak about one only one group of ‘youth’
“They have different issues which they face,” said Souraphiel. “You cannot speak about one ‘youth.’ You have to differentiate. And that is good for the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is universal and is diverse, so we get information from all parts of the world — the aspirations, and the anxieties, the challenges which the youth are facing.”
Joshua McElwee continues his report
Asked to evaluate Francis’ five-year papacy, Souraphiel said he thought the pontiff has done “very well” and is liked in Africa as “a pope who is very close to migrants and refugees and the poor.”
“I think because of his listening to the people, and not judging anyone but being near to the people, he has been one of the moral voices in the world,” he said. “And many appreciate him.”
Souraphiel noted that Francis has been arriving at the synod hall early each morning and afternoon to greet people and said the pope “doesn’t miss anything” in the discussions.
“I think he likes it,” he said. “The whole idea of the synod is to be with the Holy Father, and, together with him, look for solutions — and also, with him, to pray about it.”
“Sometimes in the free discussion time he intervenes,” said Souraphiel. “He sees what points he has been touched by. So he is just like any other participant.”