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VATICAN CITY – Over four months ago the Vatican posted an online international poll for people 16-29 years of age. It was part of preparations for the Synod of Bishops’ ordinary assembly, which is focusing on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” and is to take place in Rome in October 2018.
The direct consultation was unprecedented for the Vatican. It was meant to take place in parallel with the contributions from bishops’ conferences from each country around the world.
The survey was posted online on 14 June 2017 and was designed to be open to all young people irrespective of religion or geographic origin.
But a month after the survey closed, the Synod’s secretary-general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, has revealed some interesting statistics.
While a total of 148,247 people visited the survey site, less than half of this number — a little more than 65,000 — actually answered all the questions.
However, some 3,000 respondents left their email addresses and said they wished to be kept informed of the survey’s outcome.
The Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported the figures in its October 25th edition. Cardinal Baldisseri had already unveiled them last week at a conference for Italian religious publishers in the Northern Italy city of Pordenone.
The figures are quite low for a worldwide survey, particularly if compared to the 2.5 million people who participated in the most recent World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland during the summer of 2016.
Observers who have closely followed the Synod assembly’s preparation have noted that communications were not very effective in some countries. The language barrier was a problem. For instance, the survey was not translated into German.
As a result, the German bishops made their own translation and distributed it locally. But the responses from young Germans are not included in the figures given by Cardinal Baldisseri’s office.
During his address in Pordenone, the cardinal also presented a summary of comments young people made on the survey itself. He cited several testimonies from French young people who expressed satisfaction with the way the survey was carried out.
On the other hand, he also noted various criticisms of the survey. For example, some respondents felt the questionnaire was too long, while others felt a number of important issues were hardly addressed or not tackled at all.
These include problems linked to alcohol, drug and medicine consumption; sexuality and relationship issues; or even links with other religions.
Young people who attended a September seminar the Vatican held in preparation for the synod had already expressed some of these same concerns.
Cardinal Baldisseri insisted last week that the contribution of young people “is essential for the conclusions to correspond to the reality of the Church and society”.
He warned that without this “there is a risk of building ‘castles in the air,’ which will remain uninhabited because young people do not identify with them.”
Now the questionnaire will remain online until November 30. Responses will be used to help draft the Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris (or the working document for the assembly on youth), which is expected to be published in the summer of 2018. – la croix international