& Events


Towards 2020

19 March 2018

As previously published the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference annouced their intention to host a Plenary Council. Given the importance and the status of a Plenary Council, which is the highest formal gathering that the local churches in a country can host, the Pope is required to approve it. That approval has now been given. See below.


Pope Francis backs decision to hold Plenary Council in Australia

Pope Francis has given his approval for the Catholic Church to hold the first Plenary Council – the most significant national gathering that can be held – in Australia in more than 80 years.

“The Australian Bishops are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for affirming the decision and we ask all people to join in prayer as we embark on this journey together as God’s people in Australia,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, chair of the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council. 

“The Council will be a unique opportunity for people to come together and listen to God in all the ways God speaks to us, and in particular by listening to one another as together we discern what God is asking of us at this time – a time when the Church in Australia is facing significant challenges.

“We sincerely hope the preparation and celebration of the Plenary Council is a time when all parts of the Church listen to and dialogue with one another as we explore together how we might answer the question: ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?’”

In approving the Plenary Council, Pope Francis also endorsed the bishops’ nomination of Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB as the president of the Plenary Council. Archbishop Costelloe said he holds great hope that the Council will bring about a period of authentic renewal.

“This is a significant moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and I look forward to walking with the people of God as we look towards the future,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“I am honoured by the appointment as President of the Plenary Council and am committed to listening to the Spirit.” Archbishop Costelloe commented. “I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts.”

Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said she is inspired by the many faith-filled people across the country who have shared their hopes for the Church with her during a series of planning meetings.

“People are both curious and passionate about how all people – particularly people who are marginalised, vulnerable or distant from the Church – can be part of preparing for the Plenary Council,” she said.

“The process of listening and dialogue, beginning at Pentecost 2018, will help form the agenda for the Plenary Council. It’s a chance for us all to learn to become a truly listening Church. All people are invited to share their story of faith, of life and of their experience of the Church.”

The website for the Plenary Council was launched this week and helps people better understand how they can participate in the process.

“Signing up to the e-newsletter and the Plenary Council social media channels is the best way to stay up-to-date with local and national activity for Plenary Council,” Ms Turvey-Collins said.

Visit the Plenary Council website at

A series of YouTube videos have also been uploaded and can be accessed here. More videos will be added in the future, including one featuring Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB that mentions the papal approval.

From Fr Justin Driscoll, Vicar-General (13/3/18)

The Catholic Church in Australia has commenced preparations for a Plenary Council to be held in 2020. A Plenary Council provides an occasion for the whole Church to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to our Church at this time. For this to happen, wide 

Justin Driscoll

consultation of the entire Australian Church will be necessary so that all voices have an opportunity to be heard. Processes that enable all to genuinely listen to each other will also be required. A new relationship of trust and confidence has to be created within the Church in Australia and the wider community. 

The last time a Plenary Council was held in Australia was eighty years ago in 1937. At that time those engaged in the Plenary Council were advised to “take care that provision is made for the pastoral needs of the people of God… and to decide what seems opportune for the increase of the faith, the organization of common pastoral actions and the regulation of morals and of common ecclesiastical discipline which is to be observed, promoted and protected.” A Plenary Council has legislative capacity that will be applicable to the Church in Australia. 

The idea of having another Plenary Council in Australia has been around for some years.  The idea has been given fresh impetus by Pope Francis’ encouragement of a ‘synodal’ style of Church and also by the reflection on the lessons of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  

The synodal process has three stages – preparation, celebration and implementation. Throughout the preparation stage the Diocese of Ballarat will commence with Praying towards 2020. This will take place in the Easter Season of 2018, from April 21 – May 7. Over these weeks, the whole Diocese, its parishes, faith communities, schools, institutions and agencies will be invited to participate in prayer to invoke the Holy Spirit to inspire our preparations for the Plenary Council. Twelve Redemptorist Priests will lead what will be something of a mini mission throughout the Diocese, with four Redemptorists in the northern, central and southern zones of the Diocese for these two weeks. 

In the latter part of 2018 and into 2019, there will be gatherings at local and regional levels of the Diocese that will be opportunities for Dialogue towards 2020. Prayer and Dialogue are essential elements in this whole process of preparation for the 2020 Plenary Council. The Diocesan Pastoral Council has begun to consider ways of encouraging Parish Pastoral Councils and local Leadership Teams to plan ways of hosting dialogue sessions with as many as possible. Diocesan Commissions, Councils, Boards and Committees will all have the Plenary Council on their agendas. Catholic Schools, Social Services and Health Care institutions will also be called into this preparatory phase.  At a recent gathering in Sydney to start the conversation across the Australian Church towards the 2020 Plenary Council, Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon expressed her hope that the preparatory processes of the Plenary Council would engage with survivors of sexual abuse by clergy and religious, ordinary faithful Catholics, clergy, Australia’s first peoples, women, young people, those who are served by St Vincent de Paul and Centacare, the homeless, disabled, those living with mental health challenges and those who are marginalised in so many ways. Such engagement would help us become not just a Church for the poor but a Church of the poor.

What is expected throughout all of the stages of the Plenary Council is that it will be messy, at times chaotic, frustrating, confronting, honest, truthful, inspiring, visionary. Proposals might be easy to express but not easy to implement. Throughout the whole journey mutual listening will be required so that everybody learns. This means that the humility to listen, even and perhaps especially to difference, will be asked of all who participate.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane who is chairing the Bishop’s committee for the Plenary Council has likened the journey to the 2020 Plenary Council to the biblical pilgrimage of Abraham, requiring us to leave some things behind, having the courage to let some things go and imagine new ways, allowing ourselves to be led by a God who dislocates.  He has said that the journey to the Plenary Council must be the work of the Holy Spirit, it must be an act of faith which is why we will commence our preparations for the 2020 Plenary Council with Praying towards 2020 in the Easter season of 2018.

Fr Justin Driscoll, Vicar General

More information on preparing for the Plenary Council can be read here from Fr Noel Connolly SSC.  Fr Noel is a lecturer in Missiology at both the Broken Bay Institute and the Catholic Institute of Sydney. He is also a member of the Adult Formation Team with Catholic Mission Australia and has recently been appointed by the Australian Bishops to the Facilitation Team for the Plenary Council 2020.


In the diocese of Ballarat, we will have opportunities to gather in our local communities for prayer and dialogue, so that we might make our contribution to the plenary council.  I invite you to take part in the first of these gatherings, to be held for a few days in local communities in the Easter season, between April 21 and May 6. As resources for these gatherings, Bishop Paul has prepared a text for Evening Prayer and a text for a Penance Service. Each local community could use one or both of these texts, either as they are or adapted by the community.

Click here for a copy of the Evening Prayer. 

Click here for a copy of the Penance Service.  

We are the Catholic Church in the Ballarat Diocese
we gather in the name of Jesus from the Murray to the sea
in interwoven faith communities. Spirit filled
we celebrate and share our journey
reaching out to nurture all God's people.

Diocesan Vision Statement 2005

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