Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Firm in their faith in Jesus and working together, Orthodox and Catholic young people can resist forces trying to remove all traces of faith from society and even could reverse that trend, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk told the Synod of Bishops.

Speaking to the synod Oct. 18 as one of the “fraternal delegates” or ecumenical observers at the gathering, Metropolitan Hilarion said that, since the fall of communism, young people have been returning to the Orthodox Church in Russia.

And, he said, “the upbringing of youth in the Christian spirit is a project that we, the Orthodox, are willing to implement together with the Catholics.”

Since 2015, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican have cooperated to promote exchange programs for their seminarians and young clergy. The Orthodox visit the Vatican and the Catholics spend time in Russia, which “helps us to overcome misconceptions, enriches us spiritually and lays the foundation for cooperation between our churches.”

At a time when young people are bombarded by conflicting information about what they should want and what they should strive for, Christian leaders must help young people learn the art of discernment, he said.

“The contemporary mission of the church,” Metropolitan Hilarion said, is “to teach the younger generation to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood, the genuine and truly valuable from that which is instant, transient and superficial.”

Young people need the moral values the church teaches, and they need prayer, liturgy and the sacraments, he said. But “the most important and necessary thing that we can offer all generations is Christ crucified and risen.”

“A cultural, psychological and spiritual abyss separates the contemporary young people from Christ, from his spiritual and moral teaching,” Metropolitan Hilarion said. “Our task is to help young people to overcome this abyss, to feel that they need Christ and that he can transform their life and fill it with content, meaning and inspiration.”