VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church must help not only its own young people but also non-Catholics to become active members in society and true disciples in a chaotic world, a Venezuelan observer told the Synod of Bishops.

Maria Jose Rojas, executive director of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference youth office, told synod members that, unfortunately, young Catholics working to ease the suffering of their fellow Venezuelans “are doing it alone.”

Under the administration of President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has suffered an economic meltdown due to hyperinflation that has driven up the cost of basic necessities and forced many citizens to search the garbage for food or starve.


Nevertheless, the dire situation has mobilized young people in the church to join forces with “non-ecclesial” volunteer programs in universities and organizations to feed the hungry, visit the sick and collect clothes and medicine, Rojas told synod members Oct. 17.

“We are betting on solidarity, fraternity and peace, but we are doing it alone, separated from other young people who, although they are not Catholics like us, also feel the desire to build a better world,” Rojas said.

“We need to work together; it is a sign of these new times we are living,” she added. “All us young people feel the desire to be protagonists; that is why I propose that we affirm our way of doing apostolate together with young people is that it be done where they are, where we live our lives every day.”

While recognizing the importance of groups and movements within the church that help youths become more involved in pastoral ministry, Rojas told the synod that the church needed “to overcome having to invite young people to the parish or movement to do an apostolate.”

Rojas proposed the creation of local “youth networks,” where all young people are free to talk about their lives, share their hopes, grow in friendships that will allow them “to discover the face of Jesus in friends and in those who most in need.”

Such networks, she added, would not only build a bridge between Catholic and non-Catholic youths, but also contribute to making young people feel “valued and important” in building a better society.

“I feel that this synod is the opportunity to renew ourselves as a church,” Rojas said, “expressing gratitude for the great efforts that we have made in favor of the evangelization of young people but looking to ‘incarnate them’ in the here and now of our history.”