Bishop Paul comments on the Synod
Walking Together in Australia
and Around the World
On Sunday October 10, 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 earlier this month, 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, 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 are invited to join local consultations about their experience of synodality within the Church as part of a two-year journey towards the next international Synod of Bishops, set for October 2023.
Ten areas of synodality are being explored with questions in each area across those themes of communion, participation and mission. Catholics are invited to pray with, reflect upon and respond and to help develop a process of communal spiritual discernment.
Submissions can be made by groups and/or individuals. Resources are available from the ACBC website to assist with your submission. Responses will be sent to your diocese to form part of the diocesan contribution to the Synod of Bishops.
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.