President gives opening address to second Council assembly

At the Council’s opening session on Monday morning, the Members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia were invited to carry “a deep consciousness of who we are” as the People of God, called to discipleship in the Australian context.

As president of the Plenary Council, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB opened the first day of deliberations with an address to its Members, acknowledging the failure of the Church to live up to this calling.

“This week we will acknowledge again, in sorrow and in shame, the damage our failures have caused in the lives of many people,” he said.

The challenge ahead means ensuring “that when people engage with the Church they experience healing, hope and safety: that they experience the compassion and mercy of God”.

Looking ahead to the deliberations, during which Members will discuss and vote on more than 30 motions from the Motions and Amendments document, he admitted that things may not turn out as people planned.

“Cherished hopes, dreams and projects may not have been realised, or not in the way we had hoped and presumed would be the case,” he said.

Such is the challenge of discernment. “Who knows what will have to die for something new to spring to life?

“None of us is perfect and none of us I suspect is free from the tendency to presume that the way we see things must be right and must be God’s way and that therefore those who see things differently must be mistaken or not as wise and full of insight as we are.

“It is this reality,” he said, “of our giftedness and our frailty, which helps us understand why we must speak boldly, and listen humbly.

“We should not doubt that the Spirit, in spite of our weakness and frailty, has responded to our prayer over the course of our journey so far.

It is the Holy Spirit who will take the Council to a “new place” by the end of the week, and “into a future in which, through God’s grace, we can be the signs and bearers of God’s love for all people that the Lord is calling us, as his Church, to be”.

Archbishop Costelloe also welcomed those attending the Council as observers: Archbishop Charles Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia; Cardinal Charles Bo SDB, Archbishop of Yangon; Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington; Rev. John Gilmore, President of the National Council of Churches in Australia; and Ross Castle from Catholic Church Insurance.

The opening session included a Welcome to Country and a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony, followed by a time of prayer and worship.

The topics under discernment today include “Reconciliation: Healing Wounds, Receiving Gifts”, looking at how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can fully contribute to the life of the Church.

Also under discernment is the topic of “Choosing Repentance – Seeking Healing”, looking at how the Church in Australia can respond more transparently and contritely to the sexual abuse crisis.

The day of discernment and voting will conclude with Mass, to be livestreamed from 6pm AEST, and will be celebrated in the Ukrainian rite, presided by Bishop Mykola Bychok CSsR.

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