Local consultation opens for global Synod of Bishops
October 19, 2021
Bishop's Synod, Pope Francis, Australian 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.
Dioceses across the world hosted local Synod celebrations on Sunday, a week after Pope Francis officially opened the global process for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
The Synod theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.
The local launches also marked the commencement of a period of diocesan consultations to help the Synod’s preparation. 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.
Trudy Dantis, the director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research and national coordinator for the Synod of Bishops process, said the Synod is seeking to understand how people see the Church as a place where they can “journey together” as fellow pilgrims.
“As the key documents for the Synod outline, the Church’s mission requires all the People of God to walk together, with each member playing their particular role in communion with their sisters and brothers,” she said.
“This Synod is trying to move beyond intermittent moments of synodality towards ‘walking together’ as a norm within the Church.”
Dr Dantis said the Church in Australia has, in many ways, been living that out in recent years. The current journey of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia is a clear example, and it will assist with this related, but separate, Synod of Bishops path.
“One thing we learned during the dialogue and discernment phases of the Plenary Council was the power of a guided process of prayer, reflection, listening and speaking that invites God into the conversation,” she said.
“We will draw upon those lessons and encourage people to approach this Synod of Bishops journey with a spirit of openness to the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer.”
A new online portal has been set up to receive submissions across the various questions the Synod’s preparatory document poses. Those submissions will initially be considered at the diocesan level, and then be used to develop a national report.
That national report will be provided to the Synod of Bishops secretariat for the drafting of key documents to support the Synod process.
Dr Dantis said all Catholics in Australia are invited to participate in the Synod of Bishops process. The process of prayer and reflection is designed for group discernment, but an individual guide has also been created for those unable to join a communal process.
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.