ROME — The Vatican document outlining the initial working positions for October's global meeting of Catholic bishops on the needs of young people focuses on considering how church leaders can better help the rising generation deal with unique 21st century challenges such as the part-time economy, digital dependency, and even so-called "fake news."
The document, which will guide the opening discussions of the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops in Rome, also takes a notably inclusive tone towards both young Catholics who express disagreement with church teachings and young gay people.
Noting that some younger believers disagree with the church on contraception, abortion, or same-sex marriage, for example, it acknowledges that many of them also "express the desire to remain part of the Church."
Later, the document makes what appears to be the Vatican's first use of one of the preferred acronyms for the gay community, stating that "some LGBT youth ... wish to 'benefit from greater closeness' and experience greater care from the Church."
Released by the Vatican June 19 only in Italian, the new document is the preparatory working instrument for the October gathering, during which hundreds of bishops will come to Rome for discussions on the theme "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment."
The working document was prepared by the Vatican's synod office following an 18-month process of soliciting input that included release of an online questionnaire, written suggestions from national bishops' conferences, and two meetings of young people in Rome.
The 32,000-word text draws extensively from the considerations of the bishops' conferences and from the second meeting of young people, a weeklong pre-synodal gathering of about 300 youth hosted by the Vatican in March.
At the end of their meeting, the youth released a document acknowledging that some in their generation want the church to change its teachings on so-called "polemical issues" and calling on the church to better include them at all levels of its global community.
The new working document, known in Latin as the Instrumentum Laboris, is divided into three lengthy parts: on recognizing the reality of young people today, on interpreting its meanings, and on choosing paths forward for the church.
The document speaks of "LGBT youth" in a brief paragraph noting that the Vatican's Synod office received "various contributions" from young gay people during its consultative process. Its use of the acronym seems significant, as the Catholic Church has in the past formally referred to gay people as "persons with homosexual tendencies."
While Francis has eschewed that trend, using the word gay in interviews and press conferences, most recent Vatican documents have instead referred to "homosexuals."
A short preface by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the Vatican's synod office, precedes the document. It concludes with a prayer for the Synod, written by Francis, which asks that God help young people respond to their call "to make real their life's project and achieve happiness."
In a Vatican press conference releasing the working document June 19, Baldisseri said the primary goal of the upcoming Synod is to "make the entire church aware of its important mission to accompany every young person, none excluded."
The cardinal also said his office decided to make the Vatican's first use of the LGBT acronym to refer to gay people because the March pre-synodal meeting of young people used the term and his office was "diligent" about respecting the young people's work.