Over the past three years, we have been hearing about a Plenary Council for the Church in Australia. Many of the people of our diocese have participated in gatherings to pray and to share their reflections in preparation for the assemblies of the Plenary Council that will be held in October this year and July next year. The guiding question has been, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” The responses from our diocese and from all around Australia flowed into a working document summarising questions for the Plenary Council to consider. Our gatherings and the writing of subsequent documents have been steps along the road of the Plenary Council.
Another step happened at this month’s meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference when the bishops formally convoked the Plenary Council. This was the wording of the decree: “Having considered it necessary and advantageous and with the approval of the Apostolic See, the Australian Episcopal Conference now convokes the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia (Canon 439 §1). The approval given by the Apostolic See on the Thirteenth Day of January 2018 is attached. The Conference on the Thirteenth Day of May 2021 having approved the Instrumentum Laboris (“Working Document”), the Agenda, and the Statutes and Regulatory Norms (Canons 94 and 95) now by decree formally convokes the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.”
The decree was signed on May 23, 2021, Pentecost Sunday, by Archbishop Mark Coleridge as President of the Bishops Conference.
Like so much of life at present, the convocation of the Plenary Council was affected by the COVID pandemic. The Bishops Conference meeting was held partly in person and partly online. The bishops of Victoria gathered in person in Melbourne and other groups of bishops gathered in other states, while we were all connected electronically across the whole country. This was the setting in which we cast our vote to convoke the Plenary Council. It was unusual but in a way it was appropriate, because the first assembly of the Plenary Council will be held in similar fashion, with members gathered in state-based hubs that will be connected electronically across the whole of Australia. Please pray that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost will continue to guide us all on our Plenary Council journey.
Bishop Paul Bird CSsR
From the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference:
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has formally convoked the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, with its president Archbishop Mark Coleridge signing the required decree on Pentecost Sunday.
The decree of convocation is the final necessary step while preparing for the celebration of a plenary council. The convocation follows the approval of the related statutes and regulatory norms, the approval and February publication of the Council’s working document Continuing the Journey and the recent approval of the Council agenda.
It is expected that the agenda will be published in early June.
In a short video capturing the decree’s signing, Archbishop Coleridge said it has been more than 80 years since the Church in Australia last held a plenary council, noting “how things have changed since then”.
The Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, which has been years in the making, received approval from the Holy See in early 2018. Several important milestones over the past three years preceded the signing of the decree of convocation.
“The journey of the Council began long ago and this is just another step on the way towards the first assembly in the first week on October,” Archbishop Coleridge said after signing the decree. “On Pentecost Sunday we have invoked the Holy Spirit upon the entire journey of the Plenary Council but in particular upon the first assembly – to which we now move.”
(Media courtesy of the Archdiocese of Brisbane)