Last month we announced the revised dates for our Synod. One of the great advantages of the new timetable is that in the period between October and December 2020 we will be able to share with everyone what we are calling the long list of proposals.
At the time of writing there have been almost 2,500 proposals made to the Synod on the four themes. We have spent a great deal of time ensuring that everything that has been sent in has been considered. There has been some repetition. There have been some proposals made that are really for the local parish and not for a Synod, and there have been some proposals that the Synod has heard but are not within the remit of a Diocesan Synod. (All of this will be reported to you.)
Having taken a great deal of time reading, praying and discerning, we are preparing the long list. This list will be shared with the Synod members who will be invited to share them in their parishes and communities. This will enable everyone who wants to have a voice in what will become the final list of proposals, which will be announced in March 2021. Time would not have permitted us to do this in the original Synod timetable.
We are also going to be able to add to the proposals the reflections (and proposals) that have emerged during the time of lockdown. We are still listening to God to find the answer to the question – what kind of Church does God want us to be. The opportunity for you to contribute to this will be open until 1 September. Please go to the Synod website and make your lockdown proposals: www.synod2020.co.uk
Across the other side of the world there is a national Synod taking place throughout the Catholic Church in Australia. They too have had to revise their timetable in the light of the coronavirus. It has been interesting to watch the development of the Australian Synod. They have called a Plenary Council with the tagline ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’. Just as with our Synod, so they began with a period of listening. They spent ten months in the listening and dialogue phase. They estimated that 222,000 people took part (we estimated that over 25,000 people took part in our listening exercises). From their listening they discerned six themes:
The Church in Australia asks how God is calling us to be a Christ-centred Church that is:
• missionary and evangelising
• inclusive, participatory and synodal
• prayerful and Eucharistic
• humble, healing and merciful
• a joyful, hope-filled and servant community
• open to conversion, renewal and reform.
These themes emerged after we had discerned our own four themes:
• All called and gifted by God
• Sharing the mission of Jesus
• How we pray together
• Building community, nurturing belonging
So the question is, did they copy us?
In Australia, papers have been prepared on each of the themes. Each paper provides a reflection on some elements of the relevant pastoral reality, articulates a theological vision, outlines a number of challenges to be overcome, suggests prioritised questions to be answered and develops some proposals for change.
Archbishop Costelloe SDB, Archbishop of Perth, who is chairing the process, said the papers are an important contribution to the Church in Australia’s ongoing discernment towards the Plenary Council. ‘While not the final word on the six thematic areas which emerged from the Listening and Dialogue process, I encourage everyone to receive them in the spirit of faith and discernment with which they have been written. They both invite and challenge us to continue to “listen to what the Spirit is saying”.’
If you want to follow the work that is taking place in Australia, please look up Plenary Council 2020 and you will find lots of information. They have revised the timetable for their Synod (Plenary Council). The final gathering will be in July 2022. I wonder would there be space for a Synod Moderator (or two) from Liverpool to join them.