“The question … in Africa for the youth is not what we talk [about] much here in the synod,” Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel told NCR.

By Joshua J. McElwee (NCR) |

VATICAN CITY—One of the African prelates taking part in the Catholic Synod of Bishops on young people says he hopes the gathering will address the stark realities of poverty, migration, and conflict being experienced by youth on his continent.

“The question … in Africa for the youth is not what we talk [about] much here in the synod,” Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel told NCR.

“The real question is survival,” Souraphiel said in an Oct. 11 interview.  “In [the] African context, it is survival: what you have to eat, to dress, and whether you get shelter.”

“The modern challenges we hear, say from Europe or the Americas, about loneliness, about suicide or drugs, and generational differences between young people and the elders … that’s not happening there,” he said.

“The Catholic youth, they like their church; they come to their church,” he said. “The difficulty is what happens after church.”

Souraphiel, who is attending the Oct. 3-28 synod in at least three different roles, spoke in a half-hour conversation at the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The prelate, who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015, heads the archdiocese of Addis Ababa, is the president of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is also president of the Council of the Ethiopian Church.

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel focused the interview on the perspectives he is carrying with him from young people across eastern Africa. He also spoke about the atmosphere inside the meeting hall during the synod’s discussions, and expressed his appreciation for Francis’ “approach to the social questions” of our era.

He said the 267 prelates and 72 auditors taking part in the synod recognize that the situation of young people varies in different parts of the world.

“They have different issues which they face,” said Souraphiel. “You cannot speak about one ‘youth.’ You have to differentiate. And that is good for the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is universal and is diverse, so we get information from all parts of the world — the aspirations, and the anxieties, the challenges which the youth are facing.”

Continue reading this story at National Catholic Reporter
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