Plenary Council 2020

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The Holy See recently approved the decision of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to hold a Plenary Council for the Catholic Church in Australia in 2020. Archbishop Costello of Perth has been appointed as the President of the Plenary Council.

Much has already been said about this Plenary Council within the Catholic media in Australia. It will be an important event in the history of the Church in Australia. In order for Church to get best outcome from this Plenary Council it is important that Catholics understand exactly what a plenary council involves and how they might make a contribution.

What is a plenary council?

A plenary council is “a gathering of representatives from all the particular churches within a territory of a single episcopal conference”,  and according to Canon 439, it is “celebrated whenever it seems necessary or useful to the conference of bishops, with the approval of the Holy See”.
It is convoked by the national bishops’ conference, with the approval of the Holy See, when the bishops of a particular country believe it would be useful for the good of Catholic faith in that country. The conference of bishops ultimately determines the agenda and questions to be treated.
The actual Plenary Council sessions will involve a wide range of members of the Church. It is envisaged that some 300 delegates will participate in the first session of the Plenary Council to be held in Adelaide in October 2020. All diocesan and auxiliary bishops must be invited. Others to be invited will include Vicars General, Rectors of seminaries, Deans of Theology and representatives of religious orders and the lay faithful. There will also be observers present, for example, representatives of various other Christian churches.
Canon law gives bishops a deliberative vote.  All others who participate will have what is referred to as a consultative vote. This means they can vote on the matters under consideration to assist the discernment of the bishops, but not on the final question of whether particular initiatives are adopted by the Council.

What is the purpose of the Plenary Council?

The purpose of a Plenary Council is “to decide what seems to be opportune for the increase of the faith, the organization of common pastoral action, and the regulation of morals and of the common ecclesiastical discipline which is to be observed, promoted and protected”. (Canon 445) In other words, the purpose of the Plenary Council 2020 is to address the question of how the Church might better advance of the Catholic faith in Australia.

Preparation for the Council

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has decided to establish a Bishops’ Commission to oversee the preparations for the Council. To assist the commission in this work it has appointed an executive committee, made up primarily of lay women and men, one of whom is a Tasmanian (Dr Brigid McKenna).

Preparation for the Plenary Council will begin this year through a process of “listening” which will commence on Pentecost Sunday and run until Pentecost 2019. The Bishops’ Commission has appointed a national Facilitation Team to assist them in overseeing this process.

Each diocese has been asked to establish a Diocesan Working Group to assist the bishop in preparing for the Council, in particular this listening process.  The findings of this national listening process will be collated and provide a basis for discussion the bishops will have about the agenda of the Plenary Council.

Archbishop Julian will shortly announce the members of the Diocesan Working Group. Once this working group has had the opportunity to advise the Archbishop about the listening process and announcement will follow outlining how this process will be conducted in the Archdiocese.

Read Archbishop Julian’s views on the Plenary Council 2020.

For more about the Plenary Council 2020

Diocesan Working Group for 2020 Plenary Council

To prepare for the Plenary Council, a period from Pentecost 2018 to Pentecost 2019 has been set aside for a process of consultation and listening. Each Bishop has been asked to appoint a Diocesan Working Group.

The following have agreed to be members of the Diocesan Working Group for the Archdiocese of Hobart: Robert McManus (Chair, Bellerive Lindisfarne Parish), Anita Cunningham (Riverside Parish), Jeremy Pritchard (Kingston Channel Parish), Cristobel Sindu (Cathedral Parish, Hobart), Olivia Burdick (Huon Valley Parish), Sr Majella Kelly, John Lee Archer (Mersey Leven Parish) and Mary Clear (Launceston Parish).

An Executive Officer for the Working Group will soon be announced.

Read articles written for Tasmanians about the Plenary 2020:

Let’s listen to what the Spirit is saying!

The Holy Spirit, Soul of the Church.

We may be sheep, but the shepherd knows each of us by name!

Invite a distant relative to the conversation!

Flood of responses expected as end of the Listening and Dialogue phase draws near.

The National Themes of Discernment for the Plenary Council have been announced! What are they, and what happens next?