The Church’s youngest cardinal said Saturday that the Word of God must be the central point of the Church’s message to young people.
“In the midst of crises and difficulties we need to refer to God’s word because He is a rock to us,” Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga told reporters at an Oct. 6 press conference during the 2018 Synod of Bishops, gathered to discuss young adults, the faith, and vocational discernment.
Speaking of the synod, a gathering of bishops taking place at the Vatican Oct 3-28, the cardinal said that the assembled bishops are trying to discern together how to proclaim the Gospel among young people, and how to hear what young people have to offer to the Church.
“The whole world is gathered here and is asking ‘What does God want to say to us today through the young?’”
“We listen so that we might find together the direction,” he added. “We are still seeking God’s pathways. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand.”
Nzapalainga, 51, is Archbishop of Bangui in the Central African Republic. He was named a member of the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in 2016.
It was announced Oct. 6 that Nzapalainga had been elected a moderator, or leader, for one of the synod’s French-speaking discussion circles- small groups of bishops convened during the synod to discuss the meeting’s instrumental laboris, or working document, and to provide suggestions for the synod’s final document, which summarizes its discussion.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was also elected to lead one of the 14 small groups, as was Cardinal Blase Cupich. Bishop Robert Barron was the sole American elected as a small group “relator”- a bishop charged with presenting the deliberations of his small group to the larger assembly of bishops.
At Saturday’s press conference, Nzapalainga added that young people are looking for the Church to help them find God in their lives, especially when they are facing difficulties.
The cardinal mentioned that the series of civil wars that have plagued the Central African Republic for more than a decade, which have punctuated by only brief periods of peace. He said that Scripture, especially, is the “message of God” to those who face the suffering caused by warfare.
“It is Jesus who suffers,” the cardinal said. “When you come from a country where you have experienced war and suffering, God is present.”
Despite the struggles in his country, Nzapalainga said that “most youth love the Church,” adding that young people in his country want to share their faith with others.
Nzapalainga said that young people in his country hope that the synod will help them to better proclaim the Gospel.
“We need to offer [young people] support so that they convey to others God’s message.”
The cardinal also spoke about the idea of “ideological colonization,” a phrase used by Pope Francis to describe the negative influence of some aspects of Western culture, including the “contraceptive mentality,” on the Church in developing world.
“In each culture there are positive and negative aspects. The key to acceptance is linked to the Word of God.” The cardinal said that evaluating contemporary culture well depends on “starting from the Gospel.”
“Often we talk about colonization. We need to beware of the notion of accepting everything that comes. We shouldn’t accept everything that comes from Europe. We need to help [youth], if we don’t do this they will accept everything, even bad information, fake information.”
The Church, he said, must help young people understand what is true, and what is not, by evaluating it through the lens of the Gospel.
Nzapalainga told CNA that the needs of young people in his country are very different from this of their counterparts in the West.
“They are trying just to have peace,” he said, “just to be safe.”