The two assemblies for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will now take place in October 2021 and April 2022, following the disruption of the original schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference last week decided to postpone the opening assembly by 12 months, with it now to be held in October 2021. Adelaide remains the venue for the first assembly. The second assembly will be in Sydney in April 2022.
“Mindful of the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, it was felt that delaying the first assembly by a full year would provide some certainty that travel and social distancing guidelines will have been lifted for the assembly,” said Plenary Council President Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.
“Just as importantly, we believe that period of time will allow for an adequate period of preparation for the delegates and the Catholic community.
“The postponement was an unfortunate speed bump on the Church’s path to the Plenary Council assemblies, but we are committed to using this extra time wisely.”
Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said the continuing preparation for the Council will take on some new characteristics, shaped by the experience of the pandemic.
“A program of webinars, podcasts and other multimedia projects will be rolled out in the latter half of 2020 to help the People of God explore and share about how they respond to the Spirit and live out their own call to mission – as individuals and collectively,” she said.
“The material will be both formative and dialogical to help parishes, families, workplaces and other Catholic communities and organisations consider the unique contribution they make to the life and mission of the Church.”
The next step on that journey will come next week at Pentecost, when the papers prepared by the Discernment and Writing Groups will be released.
Each group was tasked with writing a document on one of the six national themes for discernment, which emerged from the voices of more than 220,000 people who participated in the Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase.
The papers draw upon Scripture, magisterial and papal teaching, Catholic tradition and relevant practices from beyond the Church, as well as responses received during the Listening and Discernment phase.
“These papers are the fruits of communal discernment and provide a major focus for our continued prayer and reflection. They represent another significant step in our national discernment process as we move towards the working document, or Instrumentum Laboris, for the Council assemblies and the Council agenda,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“We sincerely thank the chairs and members of the Discernment and Writing Groups for their contribution and we ask all the faithful to continue to pray for the Church in Australia as we travel through the pandemic and towards October 2021.”