Francis chooses accompaniment of young people as theme for 2018 Synod of Bishops

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Vatican City

Pope Francis has decided the next meeting of the worldwide Synod of Bishops will focus on how the Catholic church can help accompany young people in discerning God’s calling for their lives, the Vatican announced Thursday.

The synod, a worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops to be held at the Vatican in October 2018, will carry the theme: “Young people, the faith and discernment of vocation.”

The Vatican said in a statement that the theme is “in continuity” with the discussions that were held at the back-to-back meetings of the Synod in 2014 and 2015 on family life and with Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of the Family.”)

The 2018 Synod will focus on how to “accompany youth in their existential path towards maturity through a process of discernment so they can discover their life goals and realize them with joy, opening themselves up to an encounter with God,” said the statement.

Greg Burke, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters in a short briefing Thursday that the discussions are expected to focus on more than the choice between religious and married life.

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Announcement of the theme for the next Synod of Bishops had been widely anticipated in recent weeks, as the 2014 and 2015 synods garnered wide interest due to their discussions on sometimes-controversial issues like divorce and remarriage and same-sex marriage.

Some reports had indicated that Francis was considering a wide range of options as the possible theme for the Synod, including possibilities such as a married priesthood in the Catholic church and the process of the Synod of Bishops itself.

The Synod was first created by Pope Paul VI following the landmark 1962-65 Second Vatican Council as a way of keeping the Council’s atmosphere of discussion among church prelates alive.

Francis has repeatedly called a renewal of the Synod process. During an October celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Synod, he called for a church that is “synodal” at every level, with people listening to one another and recognizing they can learn from others in the church.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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