By age 9 or 10, she had her first doubts about the faith, and not long after, she felt confident telling her parents: The Catholic Church, Agata Leoniddi said, seemed “outdated and backwards.”
The language at Mass was archaic. The teaching was rigid and unwelcoming. And some of the issues most important to her — including gender equality — were not discussed in church, where the leaders were entirely male. Leoniddi had spent her childhood within the church, but more and more, she was reaching the conclusion of so many young people in the developed world who’ve abandoned organized religion and, in particular, the scandal-riddled Catholic faith.
“I don’t think the church understands my generation,” said Leoniddi, now 12, who lives in a village among rolling hills 50 miles outside of Rome. “We are not like our grandfathers.”
The failure to attract and retain young people has become a central focus this month as the Vatican holds a major summit on the topic of youths within the faith. Among the pressing questions is whether an institution often criticized as out of touch can regain relevance for a younger generation — and whether the church’s power brokers are willing to listen to what those people have to say.