Pope Francis has decided that the next Synod of Bishops will be held in October 2018 and will focus on “young people, the faith and the discernment of vocations.”
In an announcement on Oct. 6, the Vatican said the theme is “an expression of the pastoral concern of the church for young people.” Moreover, it emphasized the fact that this theme is “in continuity” with what emerged in the two recent synods of bishops on the family (October 2014 and 2015) and with the contents of “The Joy of Love” (“Amoris Laetitia”), the apostolic exhortation written by Pope Francis as a conclusion to those assemblies.
The statement said the pope decided on this theme after wide consultation. He consulted the bishops’ conferences, the Oriental Catholic churches “sui juris” and the Union of Superiors Generals. He also listened to the suggestions of the fathers made at the end of the October 2015 synod on the family and the views expressed by the ordinary council of the synod that was elected to oversee the follow-up to that synod and to prepare for the next one.
The Vatican explained that this next synod “aims to accompany young people in their existential journey towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they may be able to discover their project (plan) for life and to realize it with joy, opening themselves to the encounter with God and with people and by participating actively in the building of the church and of society.”
In other words, the aim of the next synod is to discuss and find ways to help young people discern the particular vocation to which God is calling them in the church and in the wider world. It could be a vocation to the priesthood or to religious life, to marriage and the family and to the various forms of service in society.
This will be the 15th Ordinary Synod of Bishops since Paul VI in September 1965 announced his decision to establish the synod of bishops as the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was in its final session. The previous synod on the family, the first convened by Pope Francis, was an extraordinary one and, for the first time, it was realized in two phases: October 2014 and 2015. The October 2018 synod, on the other hand, will be an ordinary one and will begin and end in the same month.
Since becoming pope, Francis has reached out to young people as was seen clearly at the World Youth Days in Rio de Janeiro 2013 and in Krakow 2016, and he has expressed considerable concern—as he did in “The Joy of Love”—that so many young people do not have work possibilities, are living in poverty, conflict situations or broken families. He is equally concerned that the church is not giving sufficient attention to the faith life of young people, or assisting them in discerning their vocation in life, and he is deeply aware of the lack of vocations not only in the church but also to service in other areas of life, including in the social, economic and political fields.
CORRECTION, Oct. 7: This report initially misstated the months when the Synod on the Family convened. The correct dates are October 2014 and 2015.