For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission

Bishops welcome release of key Synod document

Australia’s Catholic bishops have welcomed the release of the working tool for members of the Second Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

The document, known in Latin as the Instrumentum laboris, originated from over 100 reports provided to the General Secretariat of the Synod including one submitted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.  The General Secretariat also considered reports submitted by parish priests who attended a three-day working session, which involved Australian clergy.  And more than 200 comments were received from universities, associations of the faithful and other international entities.

The Instrumentum laboris is not a magisterial document or a catechism, but a way to encourage prayer, dialogue, discernment and the “maturing of a consensus”, according to an explanatory paper.  It was written by a group of theologians as well as members and consultors of the XV Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod.

A draft version of the document was sent to 70 people from all over the world including priests, consecrated men and women, lay people, theologians and pastoral workers, and then returned to the Ordinary Council which, after a series of amendments, approved it and transmitted it to the Holy Father for final approval.  It consists of five sections: an introduction; a section on “foundations” of the understanding of synodality; and three “perspectives” sections covering relationships, paths and places.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, himself a member of the Synod, noted: “The Instrumentum laboris will help guide the members of the second assembly of the synod during their meeting in October in Rome. The fruits of that meeting, and the consensus that emerges, will be entrusted to the Holy Father. He will then, after his own prayerful discernment, offer guidance and direction for the universal Church as it enters the implementation phase of the synodal journey.”

While the Synod is a process of three phases – consultation of the faithful, discernment by the pastors and the implementation phase – it is already bearing fruit as churches discover the benefits of greater co-responsibility by all the baptised.

As the document itself says: “Among the gains of the process so far, we can include having experienced and learned a method for addressing questions together, in dialogue and discernment. We are still learning how to be a missionary synodal Church, but it is a task we have learned that we can undertake with joy.”

More than a dozen Australian Catholic clergy and lay people will attend the assembly in Rome from October 2-27.

The 60-page document, a handy FAQ and an infographic is available on the Synod 2021 - 2024 website

Themes discussed in the Synthesis Report

Catholics contribute ideas ahead of Rome assembly

Australia’s Catholics have provided a wealth of ideas on how to improve the way the Church listens to the faithful and promotes its message in the community.

From February to April, hundreds of Catholics contributed their thoughts to the Australian Summary, an eight-page document which has been sent to the Vatican ahead of the October Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Read more at the ACBC Media Blog.

Reflecting on the Synthesis Report

The General Secretariat of the Synod at the Holy See is encouraging the Church throughout the world to read and reflect on the synthesis report from the First Assembly of the Synod. They have recently released a short Facebook video which poses several questions to consider in your reflections:

• What does synodality mean to you?
• What is your understanding of synodality and of the synodal process?
• How is synodality concretised in your parish?
• What were your thoughts on seeing Synod members gather around round tables?
• To which Christian tradition do you belong: Eastern or Latin? Are you aware of the roots of synodality in your tradition?

Advent Resources – Social Media Tiles

The ACBC has provided some relevant quotes from the synthesis report, developed into social media tiles for the Advent/Christmas season.  These can be used as graphics for reflections or to draw people’s attention to the synthesis report over the holiday period.  Download the graphics here.

Synod of Synodality Reflection from Archbishop Tim Costelloe SBD

Reflecting on the Synod on Synodality assembly, Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB described “being a synodal Church” as an experience that “we have to live in order to understand it”.  Read his reflection at CathNews.

Source:  ACBC Facebook page

Synthesis Report of the Synod, “A Synodal Church on Mission”

Members of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops adopted a Synthesis Report, “A Synodal Church on Mission.” This is not a final document but an instrument in the service of ongoing discernment.  Read and/or download the report here.

Source:  Synod Website

Synod participants write letter to the ‘People of God’

At the end of the first session of the Synod, the participants have prepared and published a Letter to the People of God.  A synthesis report of the first session and the way forward is expected to be published shortly.

The second session of the Synod will be in October 2024.

Source:  ACBC Media Blog 

Bishop Shane in Podcast: Open to possibility of women being ordained

Bishop Shane Mackinlay is interviewed in the third episode of ‘The Vatican Briefing’, a new podcast from the National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri.  Read the story in the National Catholic Reporter.

Source:  Sandpiper e-News October 20, 2023

Plenary Council a positive and transformative experience: Bishop Mackinlay

During the presentation of the Twelfth General Congregation of the Synod, Bishop Shane Mackinlay of Sandhurst, Australia, offers a reflection on ‘The Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.’  Read more here.

Source:  ACBC Media Blog

Special Social Media Channels for the XVI Assembly

You can follow the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on these specific social channels:

Facebook: @16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
Twitter: @16SynodAssembly
Instagram: @16ordinarygs

Faithful invited to pray for Synod of Bishops

The Vatican is asking all baptised people, regardless of whether they will be in Rome, to participate in October’s assembly of the Synod of Bishops with their prayers.  Read more here.

Ecumenical Prayer Vigil

Churches worldwide are being encouraged to participate in the upcoming Together Prayer Vigil on the eve of the Synod.  Following is a bulletin notice which can be included in diocesan and parish newsletters to encourage groups to hold their own local vigil:

ECUMENICAL PRAYER VIGIL:  Catholic communities around the world have been invited to host an ecumenical prayer vigil on the weekend of September 30 – October 1 in solidarity with a major international gathering in Rome ahead of the first session of the Synod on Synodality.  Fifteen people from Australia will be participating in the Synod and they have asked for the Catholic community’s prayers as they prepare for their important task.  A prayer vigil would be a great way to respond to their request and to gather with Christian sisters and brothers in our shared faith.  

  • Register your vigil here here.
  • Prayer service suggestions available at here.
  • Previous resources can also be found here.

Synod Resource Hub

The following resources are provided by Dr Trudy Dantis, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference National Coordinator of the Synod of Bishops 2021-2024 and Director, National Centre for Pastoral Research.  The resources are available from Google Drive and include prayers, bulletin notices, articles, videos and important Synod documents.

Synod resources
Prayers for a Synodal Church

Spiritual and Liturgical Resources
Within the Google Drive folder above, there is a sub-folder titled “Spiritual and Liturgical Resources”. Within this folder, there are Prayers for the Faithful for use in September and October this year, together with a number of universal prayers for use at various times. There are also samples of individual prayer experiences.

The Diocese of Parramatta has provided a sample 9-week Novena which they are using in preparation for their diocesan synod in August. This can be adapted for use for the Synod. There is also Synod-branded PowerPoint templates that can be edited for use in dioceses, parishes or groups.

The General Secretariat has also prepared resources to assist the spiritual and liturgical dimensions of the synodal journey. These can be found in the sub-folder called “General Secretariat Resources”.

Using the Spiritual and Liturgical Resources
The resources may be adapted to suit your local needs. The petitions within the Google Drive folder are offered for use in liturgies, or for group or personal prayer. Faith communities and groups across Australia are encouraged to use these prayers in a variety of ways:

  • family prayer
  • group prayer and devotion
  • in the liturgy, where appropriate
  • novenas
  • personal prayer
  • prayer in the classroom
  • prayer before meetings
  • praying with the saints
  • praying the Rosary

Video on Synodality
Fr Ormond Rush, who served on the Synod of Bishops’ theological commission, and has been appointed as one of the experts to advise at the upcoming Synod, has recorded a video explaining what Synodality is and what his hopes for the Synod are. The video runs for 8 and a half minutes and can be a useful resource for sharing the concept of Synodality with others, such as at the end of parish Mass, during a small group meeting, or in a newsletter to parents of parish school students. A copy of the video is also available in the “Synodality Videos” sub-folder on the Google Drive folder above.

Pope appoints hundreds to attend Synod of Bishops on Synodality

Pope Francis has appointed more than 450 participants, including religious men and women and laypeople from around the world, to attend the Synod of Bishops on Synodality.  For the first time, laypeople will not only participate in the Synod of Bishops assembly but also will be full members, with the ability to vote on a final document at the end of the process in October 2024.  Read the Vatican’s full list of particpants here.

Oceania’s diverse Church to be represented at Synod of Bishops

The president of the Federaton of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania says the 10 non-bishop members from the region chosen for the upcoming Synod of Bishops will help amplify the voice of the Catholic populaton.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis invited each of the seven regions of the world to nominate 20 people who have been involved in local initatves for the Synod of Bishops for a Synodal Church as possible additons to the Synod’s membership.

Read more.

Synod on Synodality Instrumentum Laboris or working document published

On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, the Secretariat of the Synod published the Instrumentum Laboris, or working document, for the first session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – commonly referred to as the Synod on Synodality.  Read more at the ACBC Media Blog


Source: ACBC Media Blog.

Women to vote in Synod assembly for first time

The Synod of Bishops will include female voting members for the first time.  Read more here.

Source:  CathNews

The process begins on the writing process for the Synod on Synodality’s working document 

Experts begin their work on drafting the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the first session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.  Read more here.

Oceania bishops publish response to Synod of Bishops document

Oceania bishops say their people’s reflections for the Synod of Bishops for a Synodal Church left them feeling “peace and joy”, but also called them to be prophetic and ready to “model ourselves on the love we proclaim”.   Read the media release here.  Read the report here.

Source: FCBCO

Church in Oceania prepares response to Synod of Bishops report

The rich diversity of the Catholic Church across Oceania, as well as its unity, was evident during a meeting in Melbourne last week of representatives of the region’s four bishops conferences and Eastern Catholic churches.  Read the report from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Media Blog.

Synod of Bishops: The Continental Stage

The Working Document for the Continental Stage was published by the Holy See on October 27, 2022, titled “Enlarge the space of your tent”.  Read the document here.

The next stage of the Synodal process, known as the Continental Stage, has begun. Australia is part of the Oceania Response.  Dioceses in Australia were asked to read and reflect on the working document.  The Diocese of Ballarat particpated in this. Read more here.

Pope extends Synod on Synodality to 2024

Pope Francis announced that the Synod of Bishops on Synodality will be extended by a year, with the assembly meetings to be held in Rome over two sessions in October 2023 and October 2024.  Pope Francis explained that he made the decision to hold the scheduled October 2023 assembly over two sessions with a year in between “in order to have a more relaxed period of discernment”.  Read more here.

Towards a Spirituality of Synodality

One of the most significant aspects of the 2021-2023 Synod is the recognition that it is informed and shaped by a spirituality. In developing a ‘spirituality for synodality’, we find that it assists us in integrating our theological reflection and expanding our experience of the Church as we engage more deeply in the synodal process. Indeed, as the features of a synodal spirituality unfold for us, we can come to see in it the ways in which the Holy Spirit graces the life of the Church, drawing each one into a deeper love of Christ and moving us to desire an ever greater communion, participation, and mission.

The purpose of this paper is not to give a detailed analysis of the spirituality for synodality and its theological foundations. This important work needs to be done, but it will require more extensive treatment than is possible here. Rather, it is hoped that the foundations, nature and significance of a spirituality for synodality can be developed in the light of the synodal process itself, drawing on the experience of the whole Church.

The purpose of this paper is not to give a detailed analysis of the spirituality for synodality and its theological foundations.  Rather, it is hoped that the foundations, nature and significance of a spirituality for synodality can be developed in the light of the synodal process itself, drawing on the experience of the whole Church.

Download the report here.

(Information taken from the website)

For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.

As the first phase of the Synodal Process, ‘Listening and Discernment in the Local Churches’, concludes, Mass celebrated by Fr Kevin Maloney, Vicar General, with wide representation from across the Local Church, was a celebration of the Ballarat Diocesan response. Read more:

Read the diocesan synthesis report here.

A copy of the invitation is available to download here.

Bishop Paul comments on the Synod


Walking Together in Australia

and Around the World     

On Sunday October 10, 2021 in St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass to mark the beginning of a worldwide process leading to a Synod in Rome in 2023. As the Pope explained, the word “synod” means being together on the road, walking together, travelling together on a journey. The path of this international Synod will be like the path we have been travelling for our Australian Plenary Council. It is a path that the whole Church is invited to walk together, with everyone invited to share their personal views and listen to the views of others.

Over the past few years, many people in our diocese and around Australia have come together in local groups to share their reflections on the question “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” This is the basic question for our Australian Plenary Council. We had the first assembly of our Plenary Council in October, with lay people, religious, priests and bishops gathering online from all around Australia. We will have the second assembly in July next year. The members of the Plenary Council have the task of formulating some practical proposals to help us become a more Christ-centred, missionary Church community in Australia. The Synod that Pope Francis has called will aim to do something similar for the Church throughout the world.

The plan is to have meetings first of all in local communities, which is happening presently and below there are ways to be a part of this, then at a national level, then at the level of our region of Oceania and finally an international meeting in Rome. Through all this process, we are invited to walk together and share our faith and listen to others as they share their faith, and through this exchange, come to know what God is asking of the Church throughout the world.

One of the people assisting the Synod is an Australian, Susan Pascoe. As a member of one of the Synod commissions, Susan was in Rome for the Mass on October 10. She has shared something of our Australian Plenary Council experience with those organising the worldwide Synod. She believes that elements of our Australian process could be valuable elements in the international process. We have involved many voices through Plenary Council gatherings all around the country. We have included prayer and listening as basic ingredients of discernment. Through the live streaming of the first assembly, we have made proceedings of the Plenary Council accessible to a wide audience. These elements have enriched our Plenary Council experience and they could enrich the process of the worldwide Synod.

This Synod will actually highlight the call to walk together as members of the Church. The title is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”. We are invited to reflect on how we are united with one another in the communion of one people of God. We are asked to consider how each member of the Church can participate in the life of the Church. We are encouraged to think about how each one of us has a role in the Church’s mission to share the Good News of Christ in what we say and in the way we live. We are invited to share our reflections with others and listen to others as they share their reflections with us.

In his homily for the Synod’s opening Mass, Pope Francis highlighted the fact that Jesus himself gives us a great example of listening to people he met along the way. The Pope was commenting on the gospel story about the person who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Pope Francis emphasised that Jesus listened carefully to the question and spent time in responding.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life? Such an important question requires attention, time, willingness to encounter others and sensitivity to what troubles them. The Lord does not stand aloof; he does not appear annoyed or disturbed. Instead, he is completely present to this person. He is open to encounter. Nothing leaves Jesus indifferent; everything is of concern to him. Encountering faces, meeting eyes, sharing each individual’s history. That is the closeness that Jesus embodies. He knows that someone’s life can be changed by a single encounter. The Gospel is full of such encounters with Christ, encounters that uplift and bring healing. Jesus did not hurry along, or keep looking at his watch to get the meeting over. He was always at the service of the person he was with, listening to what he or she had to say.”

Jesus’ listening was an important part of his service of those he met along the road. He listened carefully so that he could know their story. He could then respond to them in a way that really met their personal needs. The gospels tell us that Jesus came to serve. A key step in his serving was his listening. This is a key step for for us as well. The more deeply we can listen to one another, the better we will be able to serve one another.

I pray that God will grant us listening hearts as we share in the process of our Australian Plenary Council and as we share in the process of the worldwide Synod over the next couple of years. May we have the grace to listen carefully to each person we meet along the way. Being good listeners will help us to be good servants.

Bishop Paul Bird CSsR

Local consultation opens for global Synod of Bishops

Catholics were invited to join local consultations about their experience of synodality within the Church as part of a two-year journey towards the international Synod of Bishops, set for October 2023.

Ten areas of synodality were being explored with questions in each area across those themes of communion, participation and mission. Catholics were invited to pray with, reflect upon and respond and to help develop a process of communal spiritual discernment.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Synod Website
Synod 2021-2024 Website


On Sunday, October 10, 2021 Pope Francis celebrated Mass to mark the global launch of the Synod of Bishops with the theme For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission. In dioceses around the world, local launches took place on the weekend of October 16/17, ushering in a period of local consultation that will assist with the two-year process that will culminate in the Synod of Bishops gathering in Rome in October 2023.

A page on the Bishops Conference website has been set up as a hub for Synod of Bishops content. It has links to the preparatory document and vademecum (handbook) for the Synod, and a video produced by the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation explaining the Synod process can also be accessed there.

Given the significant interest in the Synod of Bishops and its relationship with the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, there is a document on that web page showing the anticipated timelines and milestones for those two important journeys.

Prayer for the Synod

 We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever.

Download a copy of the prayer