On August 16th, the Irish Bishops’ Conference published the National Synthesis of the Synodal Process on www.synod.ie. The Synodal Process has been conducted across the Church in Ireland from Autumn 2021.
“The publication the National Synthesis is the fruit of a wide-ranging process of listening and consultation drawing on the syntheses produced by the 26 dioceses in Ireland, as well as those submitted by religious congregations and other interested groups”. (Irish Bishop’s Conference Press Statement).
In publishing the National Synthesis document, the Irish Bishops’ Conference invites the whole People of God in this country to study its findings carefully and prayerfully. It is important that, in all our deliberations, we journey together in communion, because as John the Evangelist underlined so much, it is the beauty of Christian communion that attracts people (1 Jn 1:1-4).
It is our missionary communion that speaks most eloquently to our sisters and brothers today of the hope that comes from encounter with Christ and the joy of the Gospel. We recognise we need a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As Pope Francis has written:
“What is under discussion at Synodal gatherings are not traditional truths of Christian doctrine. The Synod is concerned mainly with how teaching can be lived and applied in the changing contexts of our time… What characterises a Synodal path is the role of the Holy Spirit” (Let us Dream, pp. 84-85)”.
Since October 2021, tens of thousands of Catholics across Ireland have been engaging in prayerful listening and reflection on the theme chosen by Pope Francis: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”
In June 2022 there was a unique and wonderful National Synodal gathering in Athlone which was followed by a moving ritual in the sixth century ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise. In a prayerful atmosphere, we heard feedback from the hundreds of conversations that had taken place across Ireland, and from the many submissions that had been collected. Despite the constraints of COVID-19, the process that we have been following in these past months represents a modest but significant first step in developing a synodal style of consultation about the future of the Church in Ireland and around the world.
The Synthesis Document
The National Synthesis document points to many challenges for the handing on of the faith in this country, including a need for inner healing and hope, especially among those who have suffered abuse by Church personnel and in Church institutions. It acknowledges and reflects on the impact in recent decades of a major decline in the practice of the faith, and in vocations to priesthood and religious life. There are calls for greater transparency, participation in decision-making and accountability within our parish and diocesan church structures. The importance of a renewed connection with the energy and gifts of young people is emphasised. So too is the need for fresh models of responsibility and leadership which will especially recognise and facilitate the role of women, as well as men. Our listening process has identified the need to be more inclusive in outreach, reaching out to those who have left the Church behind and in some cases feel excluded, forgotten or ignored. In an era of transformation, like Peter we have heard a call to “put out into deep water” (Lk 5:4).
You can download and read the full document on the Synthesis of the Consultation in Ireland for the Diocesan Stage of the Universal Synod 2021 – 2023 HERE
The full text of this article is taken from the launch document of the Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference see HERE
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