Synod on Synodality

 

Synod on Synodality 400In March 2020, Pope Francis announced the theme for this Synod -- “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”; it has come to be commonly known as the "Synod on Synodality" and will be phased over two years, from 10 October 2021 to October 2023.

On 17 October, a week after Pope Francis' launch, dioceses around the world began a two-year period of active listening, dialogue and prayer with the people of God.

After local processes in the dioceses are completed in early 2022, consultation and discernment will take place nationally, and then within various regions of the world. The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, informed by diocesan consultations, will join with the New Zealand, Pacific Island and Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands bishops' conferences for those regional conversations.

In October 2023, Bishops from across the world will meet in Rome to draw up recommendations for Pope Francis, based on the information garnered from the listening and dialogue phase of the Synod and local, national and regional meetings. Pope Francis will then use these recommendations to take courses of action as he deems appropriate.

 

Earlier this month, the Synod of Bishops released the preparatory document and the Vademecum (handbook) for the synodal journey. In convoking the Synod, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme he says is critical to its life and mission.

“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium,” he wrote.

“This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s ‘renewal’ proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task.”

The process of listening, dialogue and discernment will not be so foreign to Australian Catholics who have been involved in, or are aware of, the processes of the Fifth Australian Plenary Council.

According to Ms Susan Pascoe, a member of the Vatican Commission for Methodology for the 2023 Synod on Synodality, Australia’s Fifth Plenary Council could be seen as a model for the Bishops’ Synod.

“The emphasis on involving as many voices as possible through the Plenary Council submission writing process; the integration of prayer and spirituality as foundational to the listening and discernment phase, and the live-streaming of the first assembly, all witness to a process of the People of God in Australia journeying together; are all central to synodality,” she said.


Dr Trudy Dantis, the director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research, has been appointed to lead the Australian engagement with the Holy See.

Other members of the national committee are Daniel Ang, director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation; Bishops Conference general secretary, Fr Stephen Hackett MSC; Australian Catholic Council for Pastoral Research Chair, Professor Gabrielle McMullen; Diocese of Sale liturgy and pastoral ministry coordinator, Sophy Morley; and Plenary Council facilitator, Lana Turvey-Collins.

The committee is being supported by staff from the National Centre for Pastoral Research. Guided by the Synod’s preparatory documents, the committee will invite Catholics to respond to a series of questions via a web portal.

“We have seen with the survey of youth and the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia that the option of completing a survey online is one that the Catholic community responds to well,” Dr Dantis said.

“The questions we ask will seek to understand how the Church in Australia has practised, and is practising, synodality – the process of walking together.

“We look forward to again hearing from individuals and groups across the country in a process that will ultimately feed into a global conversation for the Catholic Church.”

Dr Dantis oversaw the collection and analysis of the 17,500 submissions received during the Listening and Dialogue phase of Plenary Council – including the preparation of reports for each diocese.

That significant body of work for the Plenary Council will also inform the local consultation for the Synod of Bishops.

Where questions relate with the submissions received during the Plenary Council process, our analysis will be able to feed into the Synod of Bishops preparation,” she said.

Bishops Conference president, Archbishop Mark Coleridge recently participated in a videoconference with staff from the Synod of Bishops office in Rome.

“It is clear that they have been following the journey of the Australian Plenary Council with interest and seeking to learn from it,” he said.

“The preparatory document of the Synod speaks well of the Plenary Council here, as Pope Francis did in his book 'Let Us Dream'."

“What is emerging is a new mutuality between the Church in Australia and the Church universal. The Holy See can learn from us and we can certainly learn from them, as we have on the journey of the Plenary Council and will as the Synod process unfolds.”

Bishop Shane Mackinlay has appointed Dr Chris Cotter, Director of Mission and Pastoral Life, as the Sandhurst Diocesan contact fo the Synod. More information will be available soon.

Find out more about the Synod of Bishops and the Australian consultations at: www.catholic.org.au/synodalchurch.