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Reflecting on a synodal Church

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More than 80 people from parishes and communities gathered last month to reflect on the continuing journey to the Plenary Council.

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Acting Chancellor and Plenary Council local coordinator Sarah Moffatt said the forum was also an opportunity to start preparing for a Diocesan Assembly next year and the re-engagement of a Diocesan Pastoral Council.

Ms Moffatt gave an update to the gathering on the Plenary Council discernment process, following the rescheduling of the two Council assemblies due to COVID-19.

Adelaide theologian Fr James McEvoy, from the Australian Catholic University, provided a presentation on ‘Synodality in practice’.

Drawing on the insights of Pope Francis, Fr McEvoy outlined the three phases of a synod or assembly: a preparatory phase, consulting the people of God on the concerns of the synod/assembly; the celebratory phase – the meeting itself; and the implementation phase, through which the synod/assembly’s conclusions are accepted by the wider Church.

“Each of these phases requires a participatory style – each is an act of discernment,” he said.

“Key to this process is the participants’ understanding that, as a diocese, we are a community journeying together and, therefore, can’t remake the Church from scratch, nor fulfil the ‘wish list’ that every person brings.”

Fr McEvoy said the Diocesan Assembly should integrate what has been learned about synodal processes from the national Plenary Council experience and take into account the preparatory documents.

Participants at the forum broke into small groups to discuss their experience of Pope Francis’ hope for a synodal Church and the greatest blessings and challenges of a synodal process.

Ms Moffatt said next year there would be more gatherings held around the diocese to discuss the thematic papers of the Plenary Council.

The Diocesan Assembly is expected to take place prior to the first Plenary Council assembly which is being held in Adelaide from October 3-10 next year.

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