In March 2020, Pope Francis announced that the theme for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would be “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.
The Pope will launch the global process next month in Rome, with dioceses to launch a months-long period of consultation on October 17.
After local processes in the dioceses are completed in early 2022, consultation and discernment will take place nationally, and then within various regions of the world. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, informed by diocesan consultations, will join with the New Zealand, Pacific Island and Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands bishops conferences for those regional conversations.
The Synod of Bishops will culminate in a gathering at the Vatican in October 2023.
Earlier this month, the Synod of Bishops released the preparatory document and the vademecum (handbook) for the synodal journey. In convoking the Synod, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme he says is critical to its life and mission.
“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium,” he wrote.
“This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s ‘renewal’ proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task.”
Trudy Dantis, the director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research, has been appointed to lead the Australian engagement with the Holy See.
Other members of the national committee are Daniel Ang, director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation; Bishops Conference general secretary Fr Stephen Hackett MSC; Australian Catholic Council for Pastoral Research chair Professor Gabrielle McMullen; Diocese of Sale liturgy and pastoral ministry coordinator Sophy Morley; and Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins.
The committee is being supported by staff from the National Centre for Pastoral Research.
Guided by the Synod’s preparatory documents, the committee will invite Catholics to respond to a series of questions via a web portal.
“We have seen with the survey of youth and the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia that the option of completing a survey online is one that the Catholic community responds well to,” Dr Dantis said.
“The questions we ask will seek to understand how the Church in Australia has practised, and is practising, synodality – the process of walking together.
“We look forward to again hearing from individuals and groups across the country in a process that will ultimately feed into a global conversation for the Catholic Church.”
Dr Dantis oversaw the collection and analysis of the 17,500 submissions received during the Listening and Dialogue phase of Plenary Council – including the preparation of reports for each diocese.
That significant body of work for the Plenary Council will also inform the local consultation for the Synod of Bishops.
“Where questions relate with the submissions received during the Plenary Council process, our analysis will be able to feed into the Synod of Bishops preparation,” she said.
Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge recently participated in a videoconference with staff from the Synod of Bishops office in Rome.
“It is clear that they have been following the journey of the Australian Plenary Council with interest and seeking to learn from it,” he said.
“The preparatory document of the Synod speaks well of the Plenary Council here, as Pope Francis did in his book Let Us Dream.
“What is emerging is a new mutuality between the Church in Australia and the Church universal. The Holy See can learn from us and we can certainly learn from them, as we have on the journey of the Plenary Council and will as the Synod process unfolds.”
Find out more about the Synod of Bishops and the Australian consultations at: www.catholic.org.au/synodalchurch