VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While young Catholics know God’s name, many of them have not encountered Jesus as their Lord and savior, said Polish Archbishop Grzegorz Rys of Lodz.

“It is not their fault, it is our fault surely: the God they know is just a name, a word, a catechetical definition, an abstract — but not a person — living and important enough to ask him questions!” Archbishop Rys told the Synod of Bishops Oct. 16.

The archbishop focused his speech on the importance of “kerygma,” the Greek term for the initial proclamation of salvation in Christ and call to conversion.

“It is fundamental,” Archbishop Rys said. “It is the reason for our existence as the church.”

At a retreat last Lent in his diocese, he said, he realized that young people do not experience “kerygma” or fully understand the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord. The telltale sign, he said, came when the 7,000 young people, aged 16 to 19, were asked what question they would like to ask God.

“More than 2,000 of them responded: ‘I have no question for God!'” the archbishop said.

“We know it is not that they have no important questions; but they do not address them to God or to us,” he said.

The diocese also asked 19-year-olds about the most important values in their life; 4,000 of them responded, placing family, health and friendship at the top of their lists in that order. Faith came in 13th, he said. While 50 percent of them said they go to church at least several times a year, receive Communion and go to confession, only 20 percent said faith is where they seek the important values in their life.

The results are “the fruit of 12 years of catechesis without the experience of kerygma,” said Archbishop Rys.

Yes, going to church is important, he said, but why and with what message?

At the synod “we have spoken so much about listening to young people, and it is surely the right thing to do,” he said. But without the “kerygma” they cannot even begin to ask the important questions.