Nazareth Catholic Parish

Grovedale, Torquay and Anglesea

What does 'Synodal Church' mean?

As the leadup to the Plenary Council continues we are going to hear the phrase ‘SYNODAL CHURCH’ more often, nad it will no doubt leave many wondering just what that phrase means.
 
In his Address to the Synod of Bishops (17 October 2015, in Rome) as they commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis stated that the synod was “one of the most precious legacies of the second Vatican Council” and that it was something that he has sought to enhance since the beginning of his papacy.
 
The word ‘synod’ derives from the Greek syn meaning ‘together’ and hodos meaning ‘road’ or ‘way’ and signifies a ‘coming together’, ‘assembly’ or ‘meeting’. Synods are the earliest and traditional forms for collegial discussion, debate and decision making in the Church. Pope Francis says that this “journeying together – laity, pastors the Bishop of Rome – is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.”

Pope Francis continues: “a synodal church is a church which listens, which realises that listening ‘is more than simply hearing.’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 171.) It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.”

In bringing a synodal church into being in Australia, we first need to understand the Synod process which “begins by listening to the people of God, which ‘shares also in Christ’s prophetic office (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 12.)…then continues by listening to the pastors’ and only then do “the bishops act as authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which they need to discern carefully from the changing currents of public opinion.”

Preparing to be a synodal church in Australia

Looking ahead to the Plenary Council, Fr Noel Connolly sees a huge task in setting up the structures for the kind of consultations that can truly be synodal. "This is going to be a massive and possibly messy task" he says.  Take a deep breath and think about what it might mean for our Parish. Read it here.

Bishop Long on Breaking Open the Priesthood

At the Manly Reunion Gathering in August*, Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta addressed the matter of the Catholic priesthood in Australia. The transcript of his speech appeared on the website of the Diocese of Parramatta. Showing some command of the Australian vernacular, Bishop Long makes an assessment of where we are today and how we might find a way back to the exercise of priesthood as “servant-leader”. Using personal stories and acute observations he skewers what’s wrong with our current exercise of priesthood and points a way forward. But beware! In identifying the evil of capital ‘C’ Clericalism we might be led to some consideration of our own small ‘c’ clericalism.     (*An annual gathering of priests who were educated at Manly Seminary.)   Read it here.

Fr Noel Connolly on Listening

Fr Connolly addresses the issue of how the Church hierarchy compares to the notion of the sensis fidelium - 'the faith of the whole people of God.'
In speaking of the need to "invert the pyramid" he notes that for ingrained cultural reasons this will certainly be no easy task. However he does propose wyas in which we can develop the new skills. Read it here.

Peter Wilkinson on Crisis

Wilkinson notes the scant history of Synods (Plenary OR Diocesan) in Australia. He goes on to identify and number all the groups of participants for this Plenary Council.  While urging that "new business" (as distinct from "business as usual") should be part of the preparation for the Council, he speaks to the processes of listening and agenda formation.  Opining that"poor governance was at the centre of this crisis; now accountability and transparencey must be at the core of the solution," he urges the use of diocesan assemblies as forums for engagement as they are less restictive than canonical synods.

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