From this afternoon Barcelona has become the centre of the Symposium organised by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE), and by the Archdiocese of Barcelona, to reflect on, discuss and examine in depth the theme of accompanying young people.
The meeting, which will last until Friday 31 March, brings together 275 experts in the pastoral care of young people, schools and universities, and vocational and catechetical work, from the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. They are accompanied by 32 bishops, four of whom are Cardinals. Malta is being represented by the Archbishop’s Delegate for youths, Mr Benjamin Flores Martin (MCYN).
“He walked by their side (Luke 24:15). Accompanying young people to respond freely to Christ’s call” is the overall theme of the Symposium. It will be devloped through three areas of work: the person being accompanied (examined on Tuesday), accompaniment and the one who accompanies (which will be the focus of work on Wednesday). Thursday will see an exchange of experiences of good practice in the area of accompaniment and a visit to the “Sagrada Familia”.
The opening session was held in the Aula Magna of Barcelona’s seminary, with interventions from Cardinals Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and Vice-president of CCEE; from Cardinal Cañizares, Archbishop of Valencia and Vice-president of CEEE; and from the Archbishop of Barcelona, Mgr Omella.
Mgr Omella welcomed all the participants to Barcelona, “this open and cosmopolitan city”, for a meeting which proposes the idea of accompanying: “It is a real challenge. To accompany means, in a certain sense, being ‘educators’ in the most profound sense of the word educere: to be capable of helping those whom we accompany to get the best out of themselves”.
Immediately afterwards a message from the CCEE President, Cardinal Bagnasco, was read. He shared with participants some reflections which Pope Francis gave in his audience with Heads of State last week: “Walking together is possible and better. It is also essential in an ever more globalised world where to divide us means losing the way. … This is true for all the components of the continent and of the European Union, naturally beginning with the young people who are the future of life”.
Pope Francis sent a greeting addressed to the Archbishop of Barcelona, Msgr. Ornella, in which he encourages participants “to lead a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people so that, through dialogue and encounter, and how living members of the family of Christ, young people are convinced bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas”.
Cardinal Nichols said primarily that Europe is not just the European Union. The CCEE includes all countries of the continent and it is worth to remember, perhaps especially to the majority of young Europeans, that the experience of living in Europe is not easy, it’s not comfortable, it is not stable for those who come to Europe from the East.
For his part, Cardinal Cañizares highlighted how in the Church “we are driven to accompany young people to the encounter with Christ who is walking with them even if they do not know it or do not perceive it, and shares their journey”. At the same time, he said that “young people have, at heart, a great ideal, an irrespressible longing: that life may be something great and good, which does not delude”.
Accompaniment today in Europe
After the opening session, we listened to the first intervention, entrusted to Mgr Jedraszewski, Archbishop of Krakow, and President of CCEE’s Catechesis, School and University Commission, with a presentation entitled: Jesus on the way to Emmaus – accompaniment in Europe today.
Immediately afterwards, a group of young people from the Archdiocese of Barcelona gave a multimedia presentation on the challenges, problems, hopes and joys of young people today in Europe.
The day ended with the celebration of Mass and Vespers presided over by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.