Towards a Synod for the Irish Church
At their winter meeting in 2020 the Irish Bishops announced that they had decided to set out on a Synodal path for the Irish Church. In March of this year they once again discussed the topic and laid out a roadmap towards the Synod. The first part will consist of a period of prayer, reflection and discernment. This will entail a countrywide consultative process on the theme 'For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission', which is the theme for the next Synod of Bishops scheduled for Rome in 2022.
The consultation will allow individuals and parishes, religious orders and associations, as well as groups, movements and organisations, both within the Church and in Irish society at large, to share their insights into the Church in Ireland: past, present and future. This consultation will inform the process going forward to the second phase. That consultation has been ongoing and submissions were due in by Pentecost Sunday.
The planning and preparation phase for the National Synodal Assembly will subsequently bring together and seek to implement the fruits and recommendations from this initial phase, also taking account of the conclusions of the General Assembly in Rome, together with the following Papal document which will emerge from that gathering. The aim of this second phase will be to design the particular form of the National Synod for Ireland and prepare directly at local, regional and national level for the holding of the Synod.
New opportunities and challenges
Irish Bishops have been considering the idea of a National Synodal Assembly since the 2018 Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops on Young People. They were inspired by Pope Francis' repeated call for an 'outgoing' Church and in the light of the many challenges facing the Church in Ireland today. The signs are all around us and cannot be ignored, the rapid secularisation of the Irish society, which has brought a major decline in practice of the faith and in the number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life in the country; the clerical and institutional abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in Ireland in the past years, and the call for transparency, greater participation and accountability. Doing nothing is clearly not an option.
Families, young people, and women
As pointed out during the last General Assembly in March, there is a growing awareness of the need for more support for the family as a "Domestic Church", of connecting with young people, and for honouring the contribution of women in the Church.
Bishops are also aware of the need for ongoing peace-making and building of trust and reconciliation in Ireland, and for a culture of welcome and integration for migrants and the many newcomers who have arrived in the island.
All these issues will form the focus of the National Synodal Assembly. We should all be praying that this process will be a fruitful one that will lead to a real renewal of our church in Ireland.
St. Mary's Lucan