BALTIMORE, Md. (CNA/EWTN News) – The Church needs to “be on the move” to bring Christ to young people in an ever-changing world, Pope Francis’ representative to the U.S. told bishops on Monday.
“Mercy is what this country needs to heal the wounds of division after a polarizing campaign,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., stated in his first official address to the U.S. bishops.
The Nuncio spoke at the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore Nov. 14. He was formerly the Pope’s representative in Mexico before Pope Francis transferred him to the U.S. in April.
From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has focused on mercy, Archbishop Pierre explained, pointing to the current Jubilee Year of Mercy which officially ends with the closing of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Christ the King Nov. 20, preceded by the closing of Holy Doors in dioceses around the world Nov. 13.
“We need to understand more properly this mercy of God,” the nuncio said, focusing on how the Church can better show mercy to young people who show enthusiasm and a desire for generosity.
The upcoming synod on youth and vocations can help young people “discover God’s plan for them” and help them see “that they matter” and “that they belong,” he said.
Yet many young people today are missing from the Church, he added, noting Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, noted a “lack of personal encounter with God” and lack of “authentic religious experience” among the youth.
“If they are not in our churches, why are they not there?” Archbishop Pierre asked.
Living in an era of rapid change and development, “many young people are affected by the sense of being in constant flux and are unable to make a permanent choice,” the archbishop noted, and this can be seen in seminaries, he added for the bishops in the audience.
Furthermore, many young people are torn between their drive to be independent adults and their desire to “belong” and be part of a “community,” the archbishop said. Many even get tattoos and body piercings which “give them a mark of identity,” he said, “because they want to belong.”
There is also a phenomenon of “prolonged adolescence” where through exposure to “modern media,” young people “lose contact with reality” and develop a “dependency upon virtual realities.”
And although youth have enthusiasm and a desire to be generous, their interior lives may “focus only on feelings and emotions” and they “often lack true spiritual formation,” the archbishop said.
What can the Church do to reach these youth?
Catholics “must decide to go to and walk with our young people: to each and everyone, from an awareness of carrying out a prophetic task,” the archbishop said. “In a changing environment, it is we who must be on the move.”
He compared the Church’s mission to Pope Francis’ vision of the Church as a field hospital. In this way, Archbishop Pierre said, it can be a “mobile unit” offering first aid and urgent care to those in need, going out to the young to bring about this encounter with God’s mercy.”
“The most important thing that a young person needs to feel saved by Christ is to experience His love and mercy directly. This is different from simply saying, ‘You are saved’,” he continued.
If Catholics “propose Jesus Christ” to young people and if they encounter Christ, they receive hope, he added.
“Living in this hope in Jesus Christ, young people discover their dreams, but we must remind them that God too has a plan and dreams for them,” he said.
“When a young person experiences the joy of the encounter with Jesus and has the grace to be taken with, or even fascinated by, these questions, in his heart he can no longer close himself to the horizon of a vocation – whether as a priest, religious, married or single person,” he said.