Pope to host “Building Bridges” virtual dialogue with Asian university students
By Roberta Barbi
The "Building Bridges" initiative is set to continue with a virtual meeting between Pope Francis and university students from across South Asia.
The third in the series of Pope Francis’ dialogues with young people across the continents will take place in the afternoon on 26 September 2023.
The meeting has been tagged “Building Bridges Across South Asia”, and is sponsored by the "Building Bridges" initiative of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Institute for Pastoral Studies and the Office for Global and Community Engagement at Loyola University, Chicago.
Building a synodal Church
The main goal of the meeting is meant to be a response to the Pope's call to become a more synodal Church.
The event follows the earlier two meetings on 24 February and 1 November 2022, between the Pope and students from the Americas and sub-Saharan African countries, respectively.
This time, it is the turn of young students from different areas of South Asia. The event will be livestreamed on YouTube and accessible in three languages: English, Spanish and Hindi.
Small groups reflecting on grand themes
Students who take part in the virtual meeting will hail from various universities and colleges in countries ranging from Pakistan to India to Nepal.
The students come from different disciplinary backgrounds, including Psychology, Computer Science, Physics, and Economics, among others.
They have been divided into 12 small groups (cohorts), within which they were able to engage in listening in dialogue and discernment on common social problems within their regions.
Pope Francis himself has invited them to engage in "meeting, listening, discerning", according to the method of synodal interaction, so as to avoid "descending into useless and unproductive discussions”.
Representatives of each cohort will act as the spokespersons during the virtual meeting with Pope Francis on Tuesday, 26 September 2023.
A synodal Church with hope at the center
The essence of the "Building Bridges" initiative revolves around the objective of starting from the divides that often separate various peoples and cultures, with the aim of overcoming these gaps by “building bridges of faith”.
This involves fostering mutual exchanges of experiences, sharing suggestions, and collaborating on present and future endeavors that contribute to common global objectives, such as environmental sustainability, economic justice, and comprehensive human development.
The virtual meeting format enables the unification of geographically distant regions, bringing together diverse marginalized communities facing challenges like unemployment, poverty, and violence.
This allows people in these communities to experience newfound spaces of freedom where their voices can be heard, and where they can present their visions and hopes to the world.