Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Mark O'Toole gave interventions at the Synod of Bishops on "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment'.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, gave this intervention at the Youth Synod on Friday, 19 October 2018.
On para 155 of the Instrumentum Laboris
Holy Father, my brothers and sisters,
I would like to follow and build on the comments we have heard about the crushing poverty faced by young people in the world and the consequent dangerous journeys they undertake in search of prosperity elsewhere.
These factors lead to the horrific crime of modern day slavery and human trafficking.
It is estimated that in the world today there are over 40 million people held in slavery. 40 million! And the vast majority of those are young people. This is, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘an open wound in the body of humanity’, in fact, ‘in the body of Christ’.
Human trafficking touches us all. Every country represented in this Aula is a country from which vulnerable people are taken into slavery and into which the victims of human trafficking arrive. I first became aware of this when I listened to a young English woman who was trafficked from England into enforced prostitution in Italy; and when I heard an Afghan woman speak of being held in domestic slavery for 30 years in London, where her only place of privacy was under the kitchen table, where she was permitted to sleep. Children, in forced labour in central Africa, dig out of the earth, with their bare hands, the cobalt used to manufacture the batteries of the mobile phones in our pockets.
In the fight against human trafficking the Catholic Church has a crucial part to play. Human trafficking is a vast, international criminal network. The Catholic Church is a vast, international network committed to all that is good and just. I want to pay tribute, therefore, to all in the Church who help in this struggle, especially many, many religious women who risk their safety to work with the victims of human trafficking.
Also in our Church is the Santa Marta Group, started by Pope Francis, which brings together the resources of the Catholic Church and the leadership of law enforcement agencies, the police, from many different countries around the world. This is a crucial partnership which has the rescuing and support of victims and the prosecution of criminals at its heart. The work of the Santa Marta Group is growing, with a regional conference taking place in Nigeria in November and another in Argentina in February. I ask your support in these initiatives.
The victim is always at the centre of our efforts. So too are attempts to provide resources and opportunities that might prevent young people leaving their homelands and risking slavery. At present we have projects in education and agriculture in Edo State, in Nigeria.
I hope that this topic of human trafficking, so crucial to millions of young people today, finds its place in our final document and that this important work can go from strength to strength. May St Josephine Bakhita, the young Sudanese woman sold into slavery and now our Patron Saint, pray for us and bring God’s blessing on these efforts.
Eight days prior to the Cardinal’s intervention, on 11 October 2018, Bishop Mark O’Toole, Bishop of Plymouth and first-time Synod Father, gave this intervention in the Synod Hall.
Holy Father, brother Bishops, dear brothers and sisters,
From the age of 17, Jesus has exerted an attraction over my heart; no other can match the magnetic pull of His love, or the peace that His friendship brings.
The young are looking for a passionate faith, one that is intellectually and practically reliable. Nobody wants to be part of something which has died the death of a thousand distinctions. In the mental or personal fragility that many witness to, faith which is held deep in the heart, also opens up the possibility of beginning anew each day. Only walking this path ourselves, will enable us to be with young people in a humble way.
As you, Holy Father, have said, credibility and authenticity are crucial. The cases of historic abuse within the Church, recorded in so many parts of the world, are a counter sign. Young people rightly expect that we put victim survivors at the centre of what we do. Lay experts, and just statutory authorities, are an essential part of how we review such situations, in order to make assessments with us, of these difficult matters. This is also true for us Bishops. We, too, must be subject to processes as robust as those we would expect for our priests.
In the face of such challenges we are to embrace more deeply the Marian dimension of the Church’s life. On this day we recall, of happy memory, Pope Saint John XXIII, and his description of the Church as “the loving mother of all… gentle, patient and full of tenderness.” (Opening Address of the Second Vatican Council, 11 October, 1962).
In God’s holy people we find all we need to help heal the wounds of this present crisis. Pope St John Paul spoke of the “genius of women” (Mulieris Dignitatem) as an important part of this Marian dimension. Mothers, including consecrated women who are spiritual mothers among us, can help us to be tender and loving to the young, whilst also protecting the little ones from the wolves, and so ridding the Church of this evil. This, in turn, can be a service of healing and lead to the prevention of this, and other forms of abuse, which have been shared so poignantly by many brother bishops and others, and which are so widespread in our countries.
Dear young people, thank you for being among us in these days. Please tell your peers that each of them has a place in the heart of Jesus, for each is a beloved child of the Father, and called to be with Him forever.
Jesus wants great things of you, for the Church and for the good of society. He is the One who can lead you to where you could never imagine it was possible to go.