Sotto il Monte (Italy). On 10 December 2022, in Sotto il Monte, in the province of Bergamo, the birthplace of Saint John XXIII, the 2nd stage of the “Youth and Bishops” itinerary of the Lombard Churches took place, organized by ODL (Lombardy Diocese Oratories), whose protagonists are a representation of young Lombards in dialogue with their bishops.

After the meeting on 6 November 2021, in the Milan Cathedral, where about 200 young people from all over Lombardy discussed five major issues with the Lombard Bishops, in Sotto il Monte with the theme “Your young people will have visions, your elders will have dreams” (Acts 2:17), continued with the return of the regional journey and the launch of the diocesan phase of the journey.

Also taking part in the work were Sr. Gisella Ciarla, Councilor for Youth Ministry of Holy Family Province (ILO); Fr. Paolo Caiani, Delegate for Youth Ministry of St. Charles Borromeo Province (ILE); Sr. Mafalda Montanini and Sr. Rita Fallea, FMA, two young people from the Salesian Youth Movement; and Francesca, teacher at the FMA School in Lodi, who recounts the experience:

“The synodal style, that of walking together, of narrating/listening, of open and frank dialogue, of sincere and interested exchange, seems to be the key to strengthening, and often rebuilding, a constructive relationship between the Church institution and young people. A process that began at the regional level which must now, because it is strongly desired, be realized in every single diocese, in every single parish, in every single local reality of the Church.

As underlined by Fr. Stefano Guidi, regional youth ministry officer, these moments should not be thought of as extraordinary winds in which documents, manuals, or catechetical texts are produced. Rather, what has been undertaken is a path. We can define it as a new modus operandi to be applied to normal diocesan life, which has shown how much both parties have the desire for real change, starting from mutual esteem and discussion.

Fr. Paolo Carrara of the Diocese of Bergamo, helped us to understand the basic idea of this whole process. Referring to the working document of the Synod of Bishops of 2018, he recalled that the Pope hopes for a Church that not only proclaims, but listens and listens again to the exhortation of young people because, through them, God speaks to the Church. With this, the Church could find in young people what she needs in this historical moment; not large numbers, but truth, authenticity, coherence. Three values that young people ‘demand’ from the Church and which have emerged precisely from the analysis of the work done.

Fr. Paolo’s discourse helped us draw a complete and detailed picture of the provocations and criticisms that young people address to the institution of the Church, but also the recognized qualities and strengths. It was really interesting to know for which aspects the Church is ‘reproached’ and for which, instead, it is praised and appreciated. The picture that has been composed before our eyes is a realistic picture, also full of hopes and desires.”

“The artist, who is the Spirit, invokes the creativity of the Church as a whole, and specifically of young people, so that they in turn can be artists of a new possibility of inculturation of the faith today. Listening to how they understand the Kingdom of God, even when they are unable to name it that way, is an absolutely necessary condition,” says Fr. Paolo, who identifies synodality as a practicable way.

A taste of the direct dialogue between young people and Bishops, which took place in the Cathedral of Milan a year ago, also took place on this occasion and saw as protagonists Elisa, a young woman from the Diocese of Crema, and Msgr. Gervasoni, Bishop of Vigevano and member of the Episcopal Commission for the family, youth, and life. From their dialogue, it emerged that if the world needs a ‘change of course’, it would be really important that this change start right from the Church, constituting the driving force that gives way to a global change in society.

Starting from this wind of renewal and rediscovery that is blowing among the young Lombards and their Bishops, one can hope for a new season of the Church that with creativity, but also with method, can see young people and their pastors walking side by side.

The last reflection of the morning was dedicated to how to implement all of this. We are in the reception phase, that is, the acceptance of what has been transmitted, proclaimed (tradition), but how to move on to the re-elaboration phase (rendition)?

Which pastoral dynamic to implement? Each Diocese will build its path starting from the shared conclusions and adapting it to the territorial peculiarities, work ‘sites’ will be implemented that can continue to build on the foundations of the five major themes addressed in the initial phase of the path.

How to keep enthusiasm alive? The fuel that must always feed this great work of building will be the search for an answer to the key question that the Lord addresses to each of us, whether we are young or Bishops, ‘Do you love me?’ (Jn 21:15)”.