Browsing News Entries

Young people pray for St. John Paul II’s intercession during youth synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 23, 2018 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Young people in Rome prayed for Saint John Paul II’s intercession in the final week of the 2018 Synod of Bishops for young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

The adoration holy hour on Saint John Paul II’s feast day included meditations on the pope’s Gospel reflections in St. Lawrence in Piscibus, a church which John Paul II rededicated as a youth center in the 1980s.

Saint John Paul II “asked us, 'Be not afraid.' He told us, 'You are the future,’” Mayda Rojas told CNA at the prayer vigil.

“Now it is the future, and we remember all of the things that he has taught us,” continued Rojas, who helped to organize the event with World Youth Alliance.

“The youth, the young people who sang tonight, they have questions about eternity,” she said.

Some synod fathers, including Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa and Hungarian Greek Archbishop Péter Fülöp Kocsis, joined the young people in their prayer vigil.

Among the evening’s meditations was an excerpt from “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” a book by John Paul II:

“What is youth? It is not only a period of life that corresponds to a certain number of years, it is also a time given by Providence to every person and given to him as a responsibility. During that time he searches, like the young man in the Gospel, for answers to basic questions; he searches not only for the meaning of life but also for a concrete way to go about living his life. This is the most fundamental characteristic of youth.

“Every mentor, beginning with parents, let alone every pastor, must be aware of this characteristic and must know how to identify it in every boy and girl. I will say more: He must love this fundamental aspect of youth,” wrote the pope.

The San Lorenzo Center is located just steps away from St. Peter’s Square. It serves young Romans, and those passing through on pilgrimage with spiritual and social activities. The youth center also houses the original World Youth Day cross.

“Young people are very interested to know about the life of a missionary,” Mayda Rojas said. “They don't want the easy way ... They want to know the real experience.”

Rojas, a native of Mexico, worked for many years as a missionary in Latin America. After having a child, Rojas’ life of faith changed in ways that she had not expected.

"I am a mother of an autistic child and my life is changing, but I understand that this is another kind of mission,” she said.

“Jesus Christ is the only answer and he knows what is in our hearts,” she continued. "We want all these young people and bishops to remember that we know what is the answer: Jesus Christ is the answer to everything.”

Priest and key witness in nun rape case found dead

Kochi, India, Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A priest who had been a key witness in the charge of rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur died Monday, prompting a police investigation into his death.

Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, 62, was found unconscious in his room on Oct. 22 at St Mary’s Church in Dasuya in Punjab, India. He had no visible signs of injury.
He was declared dead after being transported to a local hospital.

Kattuthara's brother, Jose Kurian, expressed doubt about police reports that the priest might have succumbed to cardiac arrest.
“My brother had talked to me a week before the death. He had expressed fear that something may happen to him. We can’t believe the Punjab Police version that my brother had died due to cardiac arrest. He had no history of heart ailments,” Kurian told Firstpost.

The priest's family petitioned for an autopsy and investigation. It was filed with the Alappuzha district superintendent of police, who forwarded it to Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister.
The priest had testified against Bishop Mulakkal, who was been arrested on Sept. 21 for allegedly raping a nun for over a course of two years. The nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, brought the accusation forward in June.
The priest provided testimony to police about the case several weeks ago. Local Catholics say that others who have testified against the bishop have faced threats of retaliation.

The nun said the abuse began in 2014 at her convent in Kuravilangad. The bishop has denied all accusations and was released on bail on October 15. He is awaiting trial.

Bishop Mulakkal told UCA News that the allegations were a retaliation against him because he acted against the nun's sexual misconduct. He said she was having an affair with her cousin's husband.

Three other women have accused the bishop of sexual misconduct. However, the Missionaries of Jesus' superior general upholds the bishop's innocence. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

Nigeria's VP says religious leaders have impeded anti-corruption work

Lagos, Nigeria, Oct 22, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Nigeria’s vice president accused “religious leaders” of impeding efforts to rid the country of corruption ahead of a February election that has elevated tension between Christian leaders and government officials in the country.

Speaking at an economic summit Monday, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said that the “the Nigerian elite,” including “religious leaders” have intervened in his efforts to remove corrupt officials from their posts. The vice president also mentioned that business and political leaders have also tried to influence his political decisions.

Osinbajo did not elaborate on his comment about the intervention of religious leaders in the country’s governance, or clarify whether he meant Muslim or Christian leaders. In recent months, however Christian leaders in the country have accused the presidential administration of failing to take a proactive approach to mitigate inter-religious violence.

On Oct. 8, a prominent Nigerian pentecostal leader criticized Osinbajo for not doing more to protect the interests of Christians in the country.

“The day Osinbajo entered government and became Vice [President] to Muhammadu Buhari, he changed,” said Bishop Emmah Gospel Isong, Publicity Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, as reported by the Nigerian Daily Post.

Osinbajo was previously a pastor at a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a pentecostal denomination founded in Nigeria in the 1950s. In addition, Osinbajo and his wife created a non-governmental organization in 2007 “dedicated to the promotion of Christian ethics and orderliness,” according to the Vanguard newspaper. Osinbajo recently took steps to reform the Nigerian police, and fired the head of Nigeria’s spy agency.

Nigeria is preparing for a general election set for February 2019. The country’s Catholic bishops have repeatedly called for free and fair elections, urging citizen to reject illegal voting practices, namely buying and selling votes.

Nigeria’s 2015 election, in which President Muhammadu Buhari was elected, was roundly condemned by politicians and journalists. The election was postponed amid outbreaks of Boko Haram violence in the country’s northern regions, and the election commission struggled to distribute voter identification cards. Reports of voter intimidation in the country were rampant.

The Nigerian bishops have spoken frequently to criticize president Buhari, whom they have admonished for failing to respect the religious freedom of Christians, and for being slow to address attacks on farmers by nomadic Fulani herdsmen.

President Buhari is himself Muslim and a member of the Fulani tribe. Though reports suggest that Christians are not the exclusive victims of the violence, the bishops accused the president in June of harboring a “double standard” against Christians when in came to enforcing the law and punishing the perpetrators of crimes.

In the most recent violent incident, 55 people died Oct. 20 in a dispute between young Christians and Muslims in a marketplace in northern Nigeria. The Vanguard newspaper reported that the violence was temporarily halted by police, but Christian Adara youth later mobilised and attacked Muslim Hausa residents, burning homes.

President Buhari condemned the incident and asked that citizens choose dialogue, patience and tolerance to prevent crises from escalating into violence.

“The Plateau Massacre,” which occurred June 21-24, 2018, was another notable eruption of violence between largely Christian farmers and Fulani herders, most of whom are Muslim, over limited natural resources. The conflict left more than 80 dead, including children and pregnant women.

“It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself,” the country’s Catholic bishops said in a June 29 statement following the massacre.

“Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project.”

“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the Police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same Police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. Would that the same swiftness be applied to all cases,” the bishops wrote.

The religious makeup of the country is almost equal between Muslims and Christians, at about 49% of the total population each, according to Pew Research Center.


U.S. attorney for D.C. announces federal hotline for victims of clergy sex abuse

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Following the launch of a federal investigation into several Catholic dioceses last week, federal prosecutor Jessie K. Liu has announced the opening of a hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the District of Columbia.

The hotline, announced Monday, is being launched in collaboration with the Superior Court Division’s Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

There is both an email address and a phone number where “survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who wish to share their experiences and/or those who have knowledge of such abuse” can make incident reports “for potential criminal investigation and prosecution,” said an announcement published by Liu’s office.

Survivors of child sexual abuse by a clergy member that took place in the District of Columbia “in a house of worship, school, or other location” can make reports to the Clergy Abuse Reporting Line at 202-252-7008 or by e-mail at

“All reports will be reviewed and a team of experienced criminal investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates from the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided,” the announcement states. “The victim advocates, who are part of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, are available to offer support and guidance to survivors who wish to report.”

The creation of such a hotline comes at the end of the so-called “summer of scandal” during which numerous accusations of abuse surfaced against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania detailed decades of clerical abuse, and former Vatican nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to sufficiently respond to reports of misconduct on McCarrick’s part.

It also comes about a week after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

The announcement of the hotline also shortly followed the federal government’s launch of an investigation into seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as the Diocese of Buffalo in New York, which is also being investigated by its State Attorney General's Office.

According to documents obtained by local media, the Diocese of Buffalo appears to have been served with the a subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office in late May or early June of this year, though it was only made public last week.

Emails between Buffalo’s Bishop Richard J. Malone, his staff and attorney mention the words “subpoena” and “Grand Jury” as early as May 31 of this year, Channel 7 Eyewitness News WKBW in Buffalo, an ABC affiliate, reported.

In those emails, Malone said he found it “encouraging” that the scope of the investigation would likely be small, based on the criteria of the probe. He also said that he hoped any prosecutable cases would be “all men (already) removed from ministry.”

A source told WKBW that the subpoena was related “to pornography, taking victims across state lines and use of cell phones/social media.”

On Oct. 18, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement acknowledging that a federal subpoena was served to the diocese “several months ago.”

“A subpoena was provided and after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents. We have heard nothing since early June. As far as we know, our response has nothing to do with the current Pennsylvania investigation that has just begun."


Cardinal Parolin: For Paul VI, ‘Humanae vitae’ had to be pastoral

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- When drafting Humanae vitae, Pope St. Paul VI showed pastoral concern while emphasizing doctrinal clarity, the Vatican’s secretary of state said Oct. 18

In that way, the pope recognized that “birth control was not a topic that merely regarded Christian couples,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said.

Parolin outlined the process that led Pope Paul VI to draft the encyclical Humanae vitae at an event organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

Published 50 years ago, Humanae vitae is known mostly for being “the encyclical that said ‘no’ to contraception,” Parolin said. The cardinal argued that the text actually goes beyond the issue of contraception to propose an integral vision of procreation.
Paul VI has been described as a pope who acted alone on the encyclical, against the opinion of the majority of theologians involved in the pre-drafting discussion. However, a recently published book on the subject aims to demonstrate that the pope was not alone on Humanae vitae.

The book, “The birth of an encyclical,” was written by Gilfredo Marengo, a professor of theological anthropology at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute.
To compile it, Marengo was given access to documents from the archive of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. He needed a special permission from the pope, since the Holy See’s archives are usually available only after 70 years.

The book presents a series of drafts and instructions, as well as a previously unpublished encyclical draft titled De nascendi prolis. That draft was totally replaced by the text that became Humanae vitae.

Parolin retraced Paul VI’s “suffering path” in the drafting of the encyclical.

“Paul VI,” Parolin said, “looked at Humanae vitae as an immediate development of new and authoritative words that the Second Vatican Council was able to express on marriage and family.”
According to the cardinal, the Second Vatican Council recognized that marriage and family were “at the top of the list of the issues for the presence of the Church in the world.”  Parolin noted that John Paul II and Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of the family during their pontificates, as Pope Francis has also done.
Parolin said that the Church’s approach to birth control was “at the beginning focused on the concern for the possible spread of anti-natalist policies,” and after that there was “the consideration that the obligation to follow moral principles was the only path to make the Church convincing in the world.”
However, Cardinal Parolin noted, “these two position cannot be imposed in abstract way,” but they must be harmonized with “an pastoral – ecclesial wisdom that cannot be found in many of the protagonists of those years.
Cardinal Parolin referred indirectly to the heated discussion that anticipated the publication of the encyclical. The so-called majority report of the commission, in favor of the use of contraceptive pill under certain conditions, was leaked to the press, and published simultaneously in April 1967 in the French newspaper Le Monde, the English magazine The Tablet, and the American newspaper the National Catholic Reporter.

Cardinal Karol Wotjytla, the future St. John Paul II, was a member of the drafting committee, though he was unable to take part to the meetings personally.

After Humanea vitae was published, Cardinal Wojtyla even asked Pope Paul VI to draft an instruction to explain that what was contained in Humanae vitae has always been part of the Church’s magisterium, and affirm its infallibility.
Such a position shows how the discussion was developing.
St. Paul VI’s figure stands in the midst of this discussion. Cardinal Parolin noted that “texts published and commented in Marengo’s book clarify that the Pope had no doubts about the doctrinal contents of the encyclical, and deny the myth of an uncertain and Hamletic Paul VI.”
Paul VI was rather concerned to find “adequate ways” to present the Church’s teaching, Parolin said. This was reason the pope waited for five years before publishing the encyclical.

Because of this pastoral concern, Parolin  said, “Paul VI asked for the help and suggestions of many specialists before maturing his judgment. Then, he spoke out, trusting that he was going to be understood.”
According to Parolin, Humanae vitae must be understood as a “testimony of the fact that the Church cannot enjoy promises of good without recognizing the original unity between conjugal love and generation of life.”
Parolin explained: “If the love of the spouses is the place where the Creator generates new lives, when this does not happen there are many occasions to think the child as an object wished at all cost.”
Humanae vitae, he said, was prophetic, as “50 years ago we could only glimpse the processes the put traditional family into question.”

It is not possible to understand the “Humanae vitae mindset if we do not look at the emerging situations of that time.”


Chilean court denies media report of verdict in Karadima lawsuit

Santiago, Chile, Oct 22, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- The president of an appeals court in Chile has denied reports that the court will order the Archdiocese of Santiago to pay some $650,000 to three victims of a laicized priest at the center of the sexual abuse scandal in that country.

"There is no ruling, no sentence has been issued nor is there even a draft decision," the President of the Court of Appeals of Santiago, Dobra Lusic said in an Oct. 22 statement.

The lawsuit against the archdiocese was rejected in March 2017. The plaintiffs appealled, and the case was heard by a Chilean appellate court on Thursday.

Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported Oct. 21 that a decision in the case was expected to be issued Monday, Oct. 22.

La Tercera reported that the archdiocese would be ordered to pay “moral damages” of 450 million pesos for its efforts to cover up crimes committed against minors. While the verdict would be open to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court, it would reportedly have been the highest judgment rendered against the Church in Chile.

The Oct. 22 statement released by the Chilean government denied this report.

The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, James Hamilton, Jose Andres Murillo and Juan Carlos Cruz, say they were sexuallty abused by Fernando Karadima over a period of years. The public testimony of the men, especially Cruz, was instrumental in bringing the Chilean abuse crisis to international attention.

The suit argues that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati were responsible for covering up Karadima’s crimes. Ezzati is the Archbishop of Santiago, Errázuriz is his predecessor.

Protests against the promotion of Bishop Juan Barros, alleged to have been one of Karadima’s proteges and protectors, turned the Chilean sexual abuse crisis into a global concern for the Church. The matter escalated during a papal visit to the country in January 2018, during which Pope Francis initially defended Barros.

Cruz and other victims travelled to Rome earlier this year to meet in private with the pope, who expressed public regret for failing to act on the matter earlier and for expressing skepticism about the allegations.

Barros’ resignation was accepted by the pope in June.

Karadima, 88, was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is considered to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood.

While Karadima himself has never stood trial for his alleged crimes because of the statute of limitations, the hierarchy of the Church in Chile stands accused of systematically covering up his abuse, and of doing the same for other accused priests.

Karadima was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in a canonical process handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011. Because of his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation [for his crimes] as well for the victims of abuse.”

On Sept. 27, Pope Francis laicised Karadima, expelling him from the clerical state in a move the Vatican described as an “exceptional measure” taken in response to the “exceptional damage” done by Karadima’s crimes.

Following a crisis meeting on May 15-17, during which the pope expressed his anger at evidence of systematic attempts to suppress and ignore allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country, 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignations.

To date, Francis has accepted seven of them, though no action has been taken against Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, the former Archbishop of Santiago and member of the pope’s C9 Council of Cardinals, or his successor, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello.

Nikki Haley praises ‘everyday miracles’ of Church despite abuse crisis

New York City, N.Y., Oct 22, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Ambassador Nikki Haley used her speech at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York City to acknowledge the Church’s efforts to address the sexual abuse scandal while continuing its “incredible work” helping “millions of desperate people” around the world.

The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was the guest of honor at the fundraising dinner for the Archdiocese of New York, held Oct. 18. While the dinner raises millions of dollars for the Church’s charitable outreach in the city, Haley said that the efforts she had seen went “way beyond that.”

In the course of her time as ambassador, Haley said that she had been to some “truly dark places” where the suffering endured by many people would be “hard for most Americans to imagine.”

“I’ve been to the border between Colombia and Venezuela, where people walk 3 hours each way in the blazing sun to get the only meal that they will have that day. Who’s giving that meal? The Catholic Church,” she said.

“I’ve been to refugee camps in Central Africa where young boys are kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers and young girls are raped as a matter of routine. Who was in the forefront of changing this culture of corruption and violence? The Catholic Church.”

Haley also acknowledged the sexual abuse crises which have rocked the Church, both in the United States and globally, saying that she would “be remiss” if she did not mention the recent scandals. Noting that sexual abuse and assault was not a problem limited to the Church but one which “deeply touches the American family,” she said that the Church had an obligation to victims.

“The church’s place must be with the victims that carry the pain with them. I know the church leaders recognize its deep responsibility to address this moral failing, and it is taking action,” she said. At the same time, the ambassador said that it would be “tragic” if the abuse scandal made the world blind to “the amazing good works the Catholic Church does every single day.”

Haley called the Church’s global works of charity, education, and healthcare “everyday miracles” and said that “those miracles are the way of the Church.”

The annual event raises money for the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which serves the “neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York, regardless of race, creed, or color.” Each year, the dinner features a prominent politician; during presidential election years, the two main candidates are invited together.

Smith was the first Catholic to be nominated as a presidential candidate by one of the two leading U.S. political parties.

Speakers at the dinner traditionally deliver irreverent and light hearted political humor, and Haley offered good natured jokes at the expense of prominent Democrats and Republicans, including the president.

But she was also quick to place American political strife in context, criticizing the growing tendency to term political opponents as “evil.”

“In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil. We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil. They’re just our opponents,” she said.

“We are blessed with a political system that allows us to resolve our differences peacefully. In the end, we must recognize that we are all Americans, and we are stronger and healthier when we are united.”

Haley’s appearance at the dinner came a little over a week after she announced that she will be stepping down from her role at the UN at the end of 2018. Haley had served as the UN Ambassador since the beginning of President Trump’s term, having previously been the governor of South Carolina.

The dinner raised nearly $4 million.

Guard slain outside Mexican cardinal's home

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 22, 2018 / 11:59 am (CNA).- An auxiliary policeman was shot and killed Sunday defending the home of Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the retired Archbishop of Mexico City.

The guard died on his way to hospital shortly after the shooting on Oct. 21. The cardinal was home during the attack but is reported to be safe and unharmed by the incident.

According to the Associated Press, the shooting was not an attempt on the cardinal’s life, but has been presumed to be an attempted robbery.

The guard had been approached by two unknown attackers, who were pretending to deliver a package. After the suspects rang the doorbell, the guard opened the door and was shot.

Reuters reported that at least one of the men had been dressed in military clothes, and, after gun fire broke out, the man was forced back as shots were returned by other guards.

The Mexican bishops’ conference expressed "its closeness, solidarity and support” to the cardinal, and offered prayers for the family and the soul of the slain officer.

Rivera retired as Mexico City’s archbishop in December 2017.


HHS considers defining sex based on birth, genetics

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Trump administration is considering reshaping some federal policies to define gender according to a person’s biology and genitalia, according to a new memo from the Department of Health and Human Services.


The department is seeking a definition based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”


If adopted, the changed definition would clarify the application of Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in educational programs that receive government funding.


This change would be a departure from practices developed during the Obama administration, which recognize a person’s gender based on their own interpretation or identity rather than their chromosomal makeup or birth sex.  


A 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights noted that “gender based harassment” could include harassment based upon the “actual or perceived” “gender identity” of a person. A question-and-answer document from the same office, issued in 2014, stated that sex-based discrimination under Title IX extended to discrimination based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity."


If the proposed changes come into effect, sex would be defined as “a person’s status as male or female based on the immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”


The sex on a person’s original birth certificate would serve as “definitive proof” of their sex, with exceptions for those who can provide “reliable genetic evidence” that states otherwise.


Approximately 1 out of every 1,500 to 2,000 births have abnormal sex chromosomes other than the typical XX for females and XY for males. The most common of these is Klinefelter Syndrome, which means that a male has two X chromosomes in addition to a Y chromosome. Many men with Klinefelter Syndrome are unaware they have the condition.


In the United States, an estimated 1.4 million people identify as “transgender,” self-identifying as a gender other than the one recorded at birth. Some such people have undergone surgery or hormonal treatments to physically resemble their gender of self-identification.


Critics of the proposed changes have argued that they would exclude those identifying as “transgender” from protection by Title IX and other anti-discrimination measures. Supporters of the proposal contend that it merely ensures such laws are applied to the whole population based on objective criteria and not subjective self-identification.


The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to present a version of the new policy to the Department of Justice before the end of the year. If the Justice Department considers the revised definition legally viable and enforceable, HHS can then approve and implement it as policy across a range of government agencies involved with Title IX enforcement.

'What is a youth?' A synod glossary

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- The 15th ordinary Synod of Bishops is meeting now to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. Many have referred to this nearly month-long meeting as the “Youth Synod.” This raises a question: What is a youth?

In the eyes of the Vatican, a youth is defined as a person between the ages of 16 and 35.

This age range extends beyond what is typically considered a “youth” in the United States. Whereas American World Youth Day participants are frequently groups of Catholic high school students accompanied by chaperones, many have observed that World Youth Day participants from European countries tend to be in their 20s and 30s.

With that established, what is a synod? A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

The Synod of Bishops was created in 1965 by Pope Saint Paul VI, who was canonized earlier this week. Paul VI charted the synod to encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops and to “insure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world of today.”

Ordinary synods happen every three years on issues voted upon by synod delegates elected or appointed from each continent, and from certain Vatican offices. There have been 15 ordinary synods to date. There are also extraordinary synods and special synods.

What makes a synod extraordinary? It is a matter of timing. Extraordinary synods are called by the pope outside of the usual timing as a matter of urgency.

Special synods address a particular topic and are usually regional. For example, next year there will be a Special Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region.

Instrumentum Laboris is Latin for “working document.” It is developed before the meeting by a small working committee of Vatican officials and diocesan bishops, and frames synod discussions. During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document, and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text, or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.

A Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation is a document produced by the pope after synod assembly concludes. It generally reflects the recommendations made by the synod in its final document submitted to the pope, along with his own reflections.

The most recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation was Amoris laetitia, which was released after the 2015 synod on the family.

New rules for the 2018 synod of bishops say that the pope may approve, as a part of the Church’s magisterium, the final report from the synod fathers instead of producing a separate exhortation. It is not yet determined whether Pope Francis will do this at the conclusion of the synod.

Synod Fathers are the bishops and others who participate and vote in a synod.

Auditors are people appointed by the pope to participate in synod discussions and interventions within the synod hall, but without a vote on documents. Laypeople and women religious participate in the synod as auditors.

In a historic first, the 2018 Synod of Bishops has invited 34 young people participating as auditors.

Circoli Minori are small discussion groups in which synod participants who speak a common language work together to produce a report on each section of the working document, along with modi, or proposals, to be included in the final document.

At the 2018 Synod of Bishops, there are 14 language groups -- four in English, three French groups, three Italian, two Spanish, one German group, and one Portuguese.

“Synodality” is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation. This phrase has been emphasized in Pope Francis’ pontificate. In May, the International Theological Commission released a document on “Synodality in Life and Mission of the Church.”