Vatican City, 31 January 2013 (VIS) – The annual Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture was presented in a conference this morning in the Press Office of the Holy See. This year's plenary will be dedicated to the theme "Emerging Youth Cultures" and will take place from 6 to 9 February. Participating in the conference were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Bishop Carlos Alberto de Pinho Moreira Azevedo, respectively president and delegate of that dicastery, along with Fr. Enzo Fortunato, O.F.M. Conv., director of the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis Press Office in Assisi and two youth representatives: Alessio Antonielli of Italy and Farasoa Mihaja Bemahazaka of Madagascar.
In an address presenting the event that was given a few days ago at the Convent of St. Francis in Assisi, Cardinal Ravasi said that its main area of interest would be "youth culture". "Walking down the streets with their ears blocked up with earphones, listening to their music, gives a sign that they are 'disconnected' from the unbearable social, political, and religious complexities that we adults have created. In a certain sense, they drop their gaze so as to exclude themselves because we have excluded them with our corruption and inconsistency, with uncertainty, unemployment, and marginalization. We parents, teachers, and priests, the ruling class, we must examine our conscience. The 'diversity' of youth, which in fact is not only negative, contains surprising seeds of fruitfulness and authenticity. We need only think of the choice to volunteer made by many young persons or their passion for music, sports, and friendship, which is their ways of telling us that man does not live by bread alone. We need only think of their spirituality, which is so original in its sincerity, or their freedom, which is hidden under a blanket of seeming indifference."
"For these and for many other reasons," concluded the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, "I am interested in the youth, who are the present (not only the future) of humanity. Of the five billion people living in developing countries, more than half are under the age of 25 (representing 85% of all the youth in the world). That is why, leaving aside the ever-necessary objective socio-psychological analysis of faith on the young, that is, the meaning of religious presence to them, we would rather focus on their faith, that is, trusting in their possibilities, even if they are buried underneath those differences that, at first glance, cause such an striking impression."
Bishop Avezedo, during his address at the press conference, laid out the plenary's program, clarifying that its objective is "to objectively enquire into the new, complex, and fragmented phenomenon of youth cultures with the help of experts and listening to the thoughts of the members and consultors of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Only the opening ceremony will be open to the public. It will be held in the Aula Magna of the LUMSA University and will have the novelty of a short rock concert preceding the first conference. The work document sent to all participants clarifies our perspective of cultural analysis of the transformations in adolescents and young adults who are questioning the practices of evangelisation."
"A few days ago," he commented, "the International Labour Organization said that 73.8 million young persons in the world are seeking employment and that there will be half a million more by 2014. This information raises a series of questions: Is there a distrust of government? Is there a fear of the future? Will the youth take to the streets in protest? Does the myth of eternal youth reveal a lack of value of adults?" In this context, and after the assembly takes an overall look at the situation, the program will focus on some of the most salient and wide-reaching cultural features such as how the "digital culture revolutionizes the model and the grammar of communications". The structures and rituals of this language, just like the importance of music, meeting places, etc. … All those questions that "require discernment on the part of the Church and a profound change in language and the creation of codes in which the Christian vision might be meaningful." Other topics for discussion will be the "emotional alphabet" of the youth, the value of the body, friendship networks, and the delay in attaining self-sufficiency.
The following day, three young adults from different continents will reflect on the reasons for having confidence in the youth. Despite the fear of the future and the worsening of economic conditions, there are "potentials, an incredible creativity, a spirit of volunteering that is full of altruism, … and answers to the questions of meaning and hope."
The next topic to be dealt with will be that of "generating the faith, which we have called the 'cultural battle'. Effectively," Bishop Avezedo said, "that means that creating conditions that make meeting Christ possible have to have a cultural as well as a pastoral and theological focus. The fatigue, and at times failure, of ecclesial practices that widen the gap between young persons and the Church needs to be understood. Also, the rates of being born into the faith are low. Adult generations either do not know how or do not have time to deal with their own faith or to generate the faith in their children."
"The audience with the Holy Father at the beginning of the plenary meeting will be a major incentive for the assembly. For 2,000 years, the Church hasn't had a predetermined artistic style or a predefined language. She looks to the person and the message of Jesus to communicate in these totally 'multi-verse' times. Emerging youth cultures reveal the vulnerability, the insecurity, and the fragility of repetitive formulas. The Pontifical Council for Culture's promising assembly frees us from superficiality and apathy and is unafraid of confronting the truth of cultural situations."