Nine-month celebration of Plenary Council set to open

The Mass to officially open the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia this Sunday marks the start of a focused nine-month period of discernment for the Catholic Church in Australia, Bishop Shane Mackinlay has said.

Bishop Mackinlay, who serves as the Council’s vice-president, said the first general assembly will be a critical time in the Plenary Council journey, but it is the first of two assemblies – with a time of “germination” between October and July.

“As the members gather from next Monday to consider the 16 questions that comprise the Plenary Council’s agenda, we will spend the week planting the seeds for renewing the Church for mission,” he said.

“Over the week, we will create a plan for the nine months between the assemblies, allowing those seeds to germinate, with the work of the members complemented by the prayers, discernment and input of the People of God in Australia.”

The Plenary Council, the first in Australia in more than 80 years, opens with Mass livestreamed from St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth at 11am AWST on Sunday, October 3.

The members will meet over six days, starting October 4, and the Mass to close the first general assembly will be celebrated at 10am AEST from St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane.

The second assembly is scheduled to take place in Sydney from July 4-9, 2022.

Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said the program for the first assembly will see the 278 members gather as a full group each day, but with the work of discernment largely taking place in groups of 10 or 30.

“In prayer, in listening and in dialogue, using the spiritual conversations process, the members will engage with the questions that emerged from the past three years,” she said.

“Through the daily livestreams, the regular written and multimedia content and the rhythm of prayers, the work of the members will be shared with the wider Catholic community.”

Bishop Mackinlay said all members – bishops, priests, religious and laity – will be grateful to know that they will be supported in prayer during the assembly.

“This is no ordinary gathering,” he said. “When the prayers of 278 people are amplified many times over, there will be a great sense of the Church in Australia placing its trust in God.”

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge recently wrote there “have been times when I wondered if we would ever make it. But after all the delays and changes of plan, we have come at last to the first assembly of the Plenary Council.”

As a member of the Bishops Conference for almost 20 years, during which time the idea of a national gathering had long been mooted, Archbishop Coleridge said the Plenary Council “is the great grace given to the Church in Australia at the dawn of the twenty-first century”.

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