Catholic Standard, Guyana, 29th July 2015
A call has been made for Catholic youth and young adults to be of “one mind with the Church in interpreting the signs of the times” and resist any move to introduce “new definitions of marriage and family”.
The appeal came from Chair of the Caribbean Bishops Conference (AEC) Youth Commission, Bishop Kenneth Richards of St John’s-Basseterre, during his homily on Saturday July 18 at the closing Mass of the AEC Youth Assembly 2015 held at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.
Warning of the threat to Christian moral and family values, he challenged youth and young adults to “prudently reject and resist the secular agenda that is undermining human dignity and the Christian values that have been integral to our existence. Such neutral non-values must not reach our shores”.
Alluding to the recent Supreme Court ruling which legalised same-sex marriage across the United States, Bishop Richards said, “Together we must acknowledge that the legislations that are establishing new definitions for marriage and family have not been done primarily by imposition, but by acceding to social pressure, facilitated by negative evolution of social behaviour.”
Although Caribbean nations have not yet reached the point of preparing legislation to change traditional values, he said they were not far from this. Bishop Richards said some leaders have been strident in rejecting the moral changes taking place but others were “flirting with the ideas, often from pressures of the international community’s criteria for accessing economic assistance”.
He rallied the youth and young adults, saying “together we must ensure our leaders resist such pressure.” Despite the wealth and power held by the international community and the region’s need for their assistance, Bishop Richards said they must respect the right of Caribbean nations for self-determination and independence.
“Each of us must ensure that our nations remain on solid footing,” he added.
He observed that social behaviour was making “non-values” acceptable, contrary to the traditional Christian values integral to the founding of Caribbean nations. Bishop Richards noted national polls have shown overwhelming shifts in values and political leaders were “literally ‘giving the people what they want’”.
He alerted of the potential for Caribbean societies to find themselves “on a slippery slope” by following the social behaviour patterns of other nations and “replacing noble traditional values”. Bishop Richards reminded of the enduring Church principles which transcended time, race and geo-graphical boundaries. He added, “Principles, values and morals that are not subjective, but are based on philosophical reasoning of the nature and meaning of things, and ultimately guided by revelation.”
The Jamaica-born bishop urged the youth and young adults to hold to the teachings and Scriptures of the Church. He quoted from Deuteronomy 4:39-40 and 18:9, “you must not learn to imitate the detestable practices of other nations.”
Bishop Richards said if Catholics committed to living according to God’s precepts and joined with other Christians and people of goodwill in nurturing and practising the revealed will of God and moral teachings of the Church, then Caribbean societies would make progress on strong and noble values.
“If we are strong within, no force from out-side can undermine the solid foundations of our nations,” he declared.
On behalf of his brother bishops, Bishop Richards charged the AEC youth to participate in debates encouraging their leaders to make practical, determined and deliberate efforts to improve their country’s ranking on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
“Our leaders must move our countries beyond talking and making legislation, to effectively implementing anti-corruption and transparency practices,” he said.
Bishop Richards mentioned the impact of corruption and lack of transparency on the private and public sectors through under-mining and destroying the essentials for economic and social development, and the advancement of people.
In an interview with the Catholic News last Wednesday, Bishop Richards said he hoped that after reflection on the Church teaching on marriage and family life, the Caribbean youth would find a way to inculcate it in “their mode of thinking and how they impact on each other”.
He said there was extensive preparation for the July 11–19 Assembly, with the youth being sent documents to study since January. These included Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubi (Chaste Wedlock) on the family and supplemental documents on marriage and family life. At the Assembly they had to make presentations on aspects of the documents and Bishop Richards de-scribed the presentations as “quite successful” and “quite positive”.
“We are appreciative of the efforts dele-gates made and their own understanding and what they contributed to each other,” he said.
Bishop Richards said one of the “mistakes” made in the past was thinking that Church documents were too difficult for the lay per-son to understand and follow, but the Assembly found a way to successfully communicate the contents of certain documents to the youth of the region.
Bishop Richards said their contributions would be used to develop a “way forward”.
Fifteen youths from various parishes in Guyana specifically from St. Pius X, Holy Spirit, Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Mount, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Parfait Harmony along with Bishop Francis Alleyne attended the Assembly. The opening ceremony was held on July 12 and workshop days ran from July 13 to 15. July 16 was an Environmental Day, Island Tour and shopping. On July 17 participants engaged in Missionary Work and more touring. On July 18 there was fun day with cultural events.
Participating countries were asked to compose a cultural item to perform on their respective cultural nights and prepare a ten minutes presentation on their assigned paragraphs of the Encyclical Casti Connubii by Pope Pius XI; Guyana was assigned paragraphs 10 to 15.
The theme for the 2015 Youth Assembly which is based on the three year cycle of World Youth Day (WYD) messages on the beatitudes by Pope Francis is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Mt 5:8. The assembly focused on the theme within the context of Family Life in the Caribbean and its Implication for Youth and Young Adult. These areas were addressed using a mechanism of “reality versus truth with regard to youth, young adult and family life”. In this regard the reality is that there are inherent challenges because of sin along with varied cultural and social challenges and the truth is God’s plan; what the Church teaches and the model family.