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A few days ahead of the Synod. Msgr. Lazzaro You (Korea): “A new era of hope for young people”

Loneliness, competition, insecurity. “If a young person loses hope he loses everything he has”, said Msgr. Lazzaro You Heung-Sik, Bishop of Daejeon (Korea), papal nominee at the Bishops’ Synod on Young People that will open October 3rd. “As I read the Instrumentum Laboris –he remarked- I made an examination of conscience: to what extent have we listened to youths in the past years? I am under the impression that until now we – adults, bishops -  have always spoken to young people giving them directions and guidelines. And youths don’t accept this”

“I prayed a lot for this Synod. We need renewed hope, a new era for young people. They have lost faith not only in the future but also in their present. My hope is that young people – through this Synod – may find the strength to move on. We will do so together, joining them in this common journey.” The Synod: expectations and challenges. SIR addressed this theme with Monsignor Lazzaro You Heung-Sik, bishop of Daejeon (Korea), who arrived in Rome a few days ago after a pilgrimage to Lourdes to attend the Synod as papal nominee.

Monsignor Lazzaro You, what is the reality Korean youths live in?
I see that they are challenged by difficulties. Since childhood they grow up in a highly competitive society. Competition thwarts fraternal relations, it casts off friendships and nurtures loneliness. But man inherently tends towards coexistence and interaction with others. We are also witnessing declining birth rates: families have one child, two at the most. This is reason for concern, because the family is a school of humanity, a place where we learn all the virtues and the art of living together.

What kind of climate does this situation produce?
I see a widespread climate of insecurity, which constitutes a major challenge. When Pope Francis visited Korea for the VI Asian Youth Day four years ago, he conveyed to the participating youths the strength to stand fast, encouraging them to never lose hope. For

If a young person loses hope, he loses everything he has.

We must never lose hope and stay the course. On that same occasion Pope Francis indicated Korean martyrs as role models to youths of all Asia, for they managed to find the strength to move forward and believe in life also in harsh conditions, through the gift of the faith.

Today, is the Church able to stop and listen to what young people have to say?
As I read the Instrumentum Laboris I made an examination of conscience. To what extent have we truly listened to young people over the past years? Youths ought to be listened to right to the end. Only if they are welcomed in this way will they feel loved by the Church and by adults. Instead, I am under the impression that we adults, we bishops, have always spoken to young people imparting directions and lessons.

And this is something that young people cannot accept.

Only when we truly listen to them, only when young people will feel they are being listened to by the Church and by adults will they be able to progress inside the Church and in society. This is very important to me. At a time when we are surrounded by voices crying out loud, we must learn the art of listening, hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit that show us the direction and how to proceed.

Do young people love the Church? Scandals spanning across the globe are putting a dark shadow on the Church. Unfortunately these scandals have driven many youths away from the Church. How can this challenge be met?

With young people we must be honest, sincere, and humble.

But it’s also important to bear witnesses, namely, to show what be believe with our lives. For only by seeing and perceiving, do young people start to open up and have faith. Nobody follows mere words. Moreover, we are credible witnesses only if we respond to the Gospel. Only the Gospel has value and credibility. Nothing else does.

For the first time two bishops from China will be attending the Synod. What does their participation and the openness of the universal Church to China mean for the Asian continent and for the Church in Asia?
I have prayed so much for the fulfilment of this deep wish of mine, namely, that China and the Holy See establish a mutual, fair relationship with one another. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have all devoted their deep commitment to the achievement of this goal. We are very pleased at the news. Being Korean, I read the letter of Pope Francis to the people of China, and I welcomed with joy the news of the Agreement signed in Beijing. I will  move toward these two bishops to establish this new relationship with them. It shows that the roads to reconciliation and peace are always within the bounds of possibility. What happened in Korea is one such example. Until last year everyone feared that we were on the brink of a nuclear war, instead, we witnessed the beginning of a new era; a new wind of the Holy Spirit has blown.

We must grasp these signs of the times, opening our hearts and listening to God who is Love and Lord of history.

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