I am Juliette Blanc, a young representative of the ICCS, leader for Rovers at the Scouts and Guides of France; present at the Fátima to Lisbon pilgrimage organized by the ICCS on the occasion of WYD Lisbon 2023. 

My expectations 

I was very happy to be invited to represent the ICCS at this congress. I accepted quickly without knowing the ins and outs of this event. I had thus little expectations, because it was the first time I took part in this type of congress. 

On the other hand, I was very happy that the Church was open to inviting scouts who were probably less practicing than leaders of other Catholic movements or associations. I agreed to represent the scouts to bring our educational method to the discussions, in integrating a multi-denominational dimension as well. I was also interested in knowing the position of the church regarding our religious teachings to the laity and I wanted to find reflection avenues to help and support young scouts around the world on the questions they ask themselves. towards the Church and the world. 

What struck me during this congress 

One hundred and ten countries represented by more than three hundred people, all played the young representative’s game. The discussions at the table were lively, everyone mingled and the debates were in full swing; I could address many of my issues. I was happy to see a Church open to the current questionings of young people, particularly regarding ethics. 

Sharing meetings were set up so that we could discuss the major themes of this congress. Some very interesting ideas emerged, particularly regarding the place we must give to young people within the Church. The priests voiced their support in giving young people a voice and not speaking for them. The role of youth ministry is to support them in their project and let them act on their own. The Church delivers a message of hope which helps young people not to give up in difficulties. 

These young people, who are facing significant problems today, must be taken seriously. But these issues vary depending on the country, because the realities are very different whether you live in Europe and when you live in Africa, South America, Asia… Pastorals must therefore be organized differently. Furthermore, the world is changing, the realities of young people do not have much in common with those adults themselves experienced during their youth. The support of young people through individual spiritual accompaniment took on its full importance in this context. But to carry out this accompaniment successfully, the Church today is faced with a challenge: to re-establish the bond of trust between young people and Her. 

Of course, I cannot help but mention my meeting with Pope Francis. Last Saturday, I stood before him and asked him to bless scouts around the world. It is beautiful to see how far scouting is capable of taking us. During these moments, we remember our first moments as scout and above all our main concerns which could be summarised as: what will be the big game of the afternoon? Will we be able to fight with a stick in the forest without the leaders seeing us? Will there be marshmallows after the vigil? Then we grow up and we gradually become aware of our belonging to a movement that is part of time and space. We are told the stories of great political or scientific figures and they explain to us the impact that scouting had on them. Thus, we gradually understand the purpose of scouting and the real symbolism of scout commitment. It is in this context that I took my responsibilities as leader, that I trained and pass on the skills and above all the values that I learned over my years as a young person and then as a leader (as we never stop learning, we must not dream). However, scouting took on another dimension for me, because I did not come as the leader of my Rover unit, but as a representative of the ICCS. Scouting goes beyond the values I was taught and that I teach today, as it affects 174 countries and is practiced by 57 million people around the world. We all gather together around the Scout law which allows us to all share the same Scout method. In this context, spirituality cannot be put aside. Conferences, such as those I represented, play a crucial role in helping leaders understand the universal principles of Scouting, so that they can better support young people. 

My questionings 

During this congress, some questions came to me. Particularly regarding the place taken by major events organized by the Church for young people. An entire day was devoted to an assessment of the Lisbon WYD and the preparation of the Rome Jubilee in 2025 and the Seoul WYD in 2027. However, the speeches were more focused on congratulations, on simple observations, without any real assessment or impact study of this type of event. It is interesting to wonder about the interest today of such an event which is gathering millions of people, especially since the energy deployed for this type of event by communities, episcopal conferences and movements is substantial. We do not know what was the individual impact among the participants. What conclusions did they come back with? But as well, what was the impact on the country and the host population? These questions remain unanswered today. 

As explained previously, I came to this congress with various questions and with the desire to present my positive and negative vision of the Church. I found it a shame that young people were given little place during this congress. None of the speakers at the conferences were “young” and in principle, it was not planned to leave space on the stage for listening to the young people and hearing their questions. So, I had the feeling that we were speaking for us; thus, some of the issues we presented were not, according to me, entirely accurate. For example, we have not been able to talk about the ethical and moral problems that young lay people face today. It is a shame that the Church today has the image of a bubble into which we cannot enter if we do not follow certain positions that it claims. However, the question of the Synod has come up several times and the Church wants to give itself a synodal image which asks questions about its past and which wishes to achieve horizontality by giving a voice to the laity. What actions can it take to get rid of this facade and show that it is open to others in their difference? 


At the end of this week, I must say that I was overcome with a tremendous joy. My meeting with the Pope contributed considerably to this of course, but we must not neglect the impact that the openness of most of the participants to my questions had on me. Going to this congress, I had a lot of apprehension about the type of people I was going to meet there. I was delighted to meet priests, bishops and lay people engaged in an authentic synodal process. However, there is still a way to go if the Church wants to get a more positive image to the general public. The Church moved forward in terms of openness and entered a real phase of reform, this was seen in the sole presence of young people during this congress. The path is already well underway! 

I thank the ICCS for inviting me to this congress, I was very proud to represent the scouts before the Pope. I think that this congress can give us interesting ideas for offering multi-denominational spiritual accompaniment to scouts around the world. The ICCS has a role to play in the liberalization of speech with regard to our first pillar: commitment to God. 

I will end my letter by recalling the words of Father Jacques Sevin, founder of the ICCS: your neighbour is not only the scouts, nor your fellow citizens, nor the men who speak the same language than you and who were born of the same side of the river. It’s all the men.