Australian national report for Synod of Bishops published

By Catherine Sheehan

The national report for the Synod of Bishops has been published by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, synthesising all information collected through the local diocesan consultation process.

The report, along with national reports from countries all around the world, will be used by the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in their preparation for the international gathering of bishops in Rome in October next year.

The issues of concern outlined in the report are largely reflective of those raised at the recent Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

In expressing a commitment to synodality, the report asserts a greater need for journeying with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples “towards unity in faith”, and calls for “new ways of being Christian and new forms of Church life better suited to First Nations cultures”.

The broad themes addressed in the report are Communion, Participation, and Mission. Under each of these headings are further key themes which have emerged from the local “listening and dialogue” consultations.

In addressing communion among the faithful, a desire was expressed for greater community life in a post-COVID world, while some were “frustrated” by the “rigidity of Church teachings”.

There was a desire to grow in faith through more faith formation and catechesis, spiritual development, and a call for greater emphasis on the real presence of Christ at Mass.

The importance of the liturgy was acknowledged while some called for broader use of the Third Rite of Reconciliation, more “inclusive language” and “use of Indigenous spirituality in liturgy and Church life – both in the diocese and the wider Church in Australia”.

On the theme of increasing participation in Church life, concerns were raised about “restrictive” Church teachings as a “barrier” to inclusivity. There was a call for the laity to be involved in all levels of leadership within the Church and for further discussion of women’s ordination. It was also suggested that the hierarchical nature of the Church was opposed to synodality.

Finally, in addressing mission within the Church, the report emphasises primarily a need for “Commitment to social justice and care of the Earth”, stipulating an “urgent need” for “affirmative action” in caring for the environment and those affected by climate change.

Toward the end of the report evangelisation is briefly discussed, noting that the evangelising mission of the Church was the responsibility of all baptised faithful and should be undertaken “synodally”.

The report was prepared by the National Centre for Pastoral Research, synthesising information gathered during the local diocesan consultation process from October 2021 to March 2022.

The final drafting of the report was undertaken by the bishops during three videoconference meetings in May and June this year.

The process for the XVI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also known as the “Synod on Synodality”, was officially opened on 17 October 2021 in dioceses around the country, and will culminate in the gathering of the world’s bishops in Rome in October 2023.

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