Christus Vivit

Five years since the Post-Synodal document "Christus Vivit"'s publication: messages and challenges for the future

A reflection by Card. Kevin Farrell on L'Osservatore romano
Pre-Synod 2018 - Group picture

Pre-Synod 2018 - Group picture



L'Osservatore romano - In 2019, with the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, Pope Francis brought to completion the synodal journey he himself launched in October 2016, when he announced the theme of the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: 'Young people, faith and vocational discernment'. For the first time, the Church was listening to young people on a broad scale: through the numerous local consultations; in the pre-Synod held in Rome that involved around 300 young people; and during the Synod Assembly itself attended by young delegates from all over the world.

Five years after the publication of Christus vivit on 25 March 2019, it is appropriate first of all to reflect on the three great messages that the Holy Father addressed to young people in Chapter IV, the heart of the Apostolic Exhortation.

Three great messages

God is love. The first great message to proclaim to a young heart is that 'God is love'. "God loves you, never doubt this" (ChV 112) says the Holy Father to every young person; His is a love that "has to do more with raising up than knocking down, with reconciling than forbidding, with offering new changes than condemning, with the future than the past" (ChV 116). Young people need, before anything else, to feel loved and to have the assurance that Someone created them to pour His infinite love into them.

Christ saves you. The second great message is that "Christ saves you". Jesus loves us and saves us because "For only what is loved can be saved. Only what is embraced can be transformed. The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws” (ChV 120). The love of Jesus that saves and transforms concerns every young person, and therefore, as the Holy Father forcefully reminded us during World Youth Day in Lisbon, it must be brought to everyone, everyone, everyone!

He is alive! The third great message is that "Christ is alive!".  In the Christian proclamation to young people, we must always make a "passage to today" to avoid considering Jesus merely as a good example from the past, a mere memory, as someone who carried out his mission two thousand years ago and now is of no use to us, does not free us, and leaves us the same as before (cf. ChV 124). Instead, from the certainty that Jesus is here, now, beside me and 'in me', a new impetus is born: “Because he lives, there can be no doubt that goodness will have the upper hand in your life… If this is the case, we can stop complaining and look to the future, for with him this is always possible” (ChV 127).

Pastoral challenges

In addition to the three kerygmatic messages of Chapter IV, it is useful to compare some major challenges that the papal document poses for youth ministry and by which we must again allow ourselves to be challenged, always remembering that young people are the present and not only the future of the Church and the world (cf. ChV 64).

Create experiences of encounter. A first great challenge is to ensure that all pastoral proposals addressed to young people become an opportunity for a personal encounter with Christ. A good example to look at is the World Youth Days, which focus precisely on the experience of encounter: encounter with Christ, with one's own history and vocation, with the Pope and the Church, and with other young people. The fruits of these experiences of encounter, even if they are not immediately visible, are many: the first tender shoots of a future marriage; the beginning of a call to consecrated life; listening to the cry of the poor, the call of the excluded and of Creation, which urge young people to get up and act quickly, committing themselves to service, voluntary work, charity, social life, or politics. This style of encounter becomes increasingly valuable in our society in which young people are exposed to the risk of isolation and withdrawal into themselves, especially because of the excessive use of social media.

Making room for young people. It is necessary to make room for young people and their ardour, not relegating them to a marginal place or isolating them from the rest of the community, but learning to walk with them and follow their pace. In this regard, the Holy Father speaks of a "popular youth ministry" (ChV 230-238) that goes beyond the usual schemes, that experiments with new methods and styles, that materialises in the places where young people concretely move, and that additionally values young believers who are natural leaders and who know how to animate and spur on their peers (cf. ChV 230).

Living synodality. The Church, at every level, is invited to listen to the voice of young people and encourage their active participation. The local Churches where this has been implemented have seen the birth of real workshops of lived synodality and, in several cases, it has been the young people themselves who have courageously asked their local community to "journey together" through a dynamism of co-responsibility (cf. ChV 206).

Reaching everyone. We can never be content with the small number of young people who already feel part of the Church and who make up a large part of parish youth groups or ecclesial movements. The mission that Christus vivit entrusts to us is to have the courage and confidence to go out and seek out those who are far from any experience of faith. The Holy Father invites us to believe in the evangelising power of young people themselves, because many of them, more than those we believe, are eager to reach their peers and enkindle stars in the night of other young people (cf. ChV 33).


In his message to young people published yesterday, the Holy Father repeatedly speaks of hope. The hope that comes from the certainty of the living presence of Christ next to each young person so that "difficulties will be much less burdensome, because he will be carrying them with you". The hope in the Resurrection that marks "the triumph of life over death" and of which the "plain" Cross, without the Crucifix, of WYD is a strong symbol which young people continue to carry around the world. The hope that young people themselves represent for the Church, which the Holy Father affirms as “the living hope of a Church on the move”. The Holy Father encourages young people: “never leave us without your … own particular way of living and proclaiming the joy of the risen Jesus” (Message to young people on the 5th anniversary of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus vivit, 25 March 2024).

Keeping young people in our thoughts, let us all therefore adopt this "look of hope" that the Holy Father proposes to us; let us not allow pessimism, resignation, or apathy to prevail towards them. Our task as the 'adult' Church is to be close and united to the 'young’ Church, as highlighted in the beautiful image of Peter and John at the tomb (cf. ChV 299). We are invited to put the experience and wisdom gained over the years at the service of young people, to show them the goal, and to constructively channel their gifts and talents. We must never doubt that young people have enthusiasm, charisma, new ideas, inspiration, noble ideals, and, above all, sincere faith and love for the Lord Jesus.

Kevin Card. Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life

27 March 2024