From his perspective inside the Vatican’s youth synod, Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, told CNA that participating bishops have real opportunities - through the unique process used during the meeting - to shape the final document produced by the meeting.
While the synod’s final document requires final approval from Pope Francis, Barron said the 266 bishop delegates to the synod will shape its structure and content.
“I think we all have a chance to make our voices heard,” he said.
Barron was elected last week as the relatore – a kind of reporter– for one of the synod’s English-language working groups. In this role, he is responsible for tracking his group’s conversation, and presenting a summary report, called a “relatio,” to the entire synod assembly.
As a relatore, Barron also oversees the amendment process through which members of his group can propose changes to the structure or content of the synod’s working document.
On the morning of Oct. 9, Barron and the relatori from the other 13 working groups gave short talks in the synod hall, reporting what their group discussed the previous few days. Barron told CNA Oct. 8 that the process has “been an interesting part of the synod work.”
The reports are forwarded to the members of a writing group, expected to be be elected Oct. 9. That group will compose the synod’s final document, on the theme of young people, faith, and vocational discernment.
The writing group receives “all the amendments, they’ll hear the reports, and then taking all that data, they’ll adjust the document accordingly,” Barron said. Finally, the Synod Fathers will “vote on it at the very end. But this is the whole process by which the document comes to be.”
Barron said that synod bishops have several opportunities to present their views.
One way is in the intervention, or short speech, that each bishop gives at some point in the synod process. Another way, he explained, is in the language discussion groups, where everyone can offer input. Though the relatore delivers the “relatio,” everyone can make suggestions for what it can say, Barron noted.
“So, I think the bishops have a lot of say in the document.”
Barron gave his four-minute intervention on Oct. 4, the second day of the synod. He spoke about what he sees as a need for greater intellectual faith formation of young people, particularly catechesis and apologetics.
“Innumerable surveys and studies over the past ten years have confirmed that young people frequently cite intellectual reasons when asked what has prompted them to leave the Church or lose confidence in it,” he said during the speech.
Asked how he thinks this topic fits with other conversations inside the synod hall, namely, the idea that youth and young adults leave the Catholic Church because they find it irrelevant, he said, “it compliments it.”
He felt the need to bring up faith formation, because he “really didn’t see it strongly in the Instrumentum laboris,” he said. “I think it’s a very important part of the way we accompany young people and I think it just wasn’t really mentioned at all.”
Barron said he would love to see some space devoted to that angle in the final document and that he will certainly bring it up in his small language group, hopefully making an amendment on it.
“So, we’ll see,” he said. “I just felt it was an important thing that was being overlooked a bit.”