Irish clergy report on world meeting of priests in Rome

13 May, 2024 | Church, News, Pope, Synod, World

The following report recounts the experience of five Irish priests who attended the recent world meeting of parish priests for the Universal Synod:

From Sunday 28 April –Thursday 2 May, five priests from Ireland along with over 200 priests from across the world gathered in Sacrofano, just outside Rome, for the international meeting of parish priests.  Each Bishops’ Conference was initially invited to send representatives from their own country, with priests from 99 different countries eventually making the journey from the four corners of the world.  That sense of the Universal Church gathering together was evident from the outset.  On Sunday evening, we gathered for an informal dinner, and from the start there was a very joyful, friendly, and uplifting atmosphere.

Monday morning was our first full meeting, with all of us put in different groups with people we had never met before.  The meeting got under way with the opening greeting form Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod, who reminded us that, “this gathering was brought together to tell their stories of how Jesus is working in our parishes and dioceses.  It was important for all of us to share our stories because they are God’s stories also.  Being Synodal is not just walking together but also walking with God and God walking with us.  These are real stories not fiction”.

The gathering had five experts who introduced the different theme for each day.  The experts were:

  • Bishop David from the Philippines
  • Benedict Ndubueze Ejeh Canonist from Nigeria
  • Thomas Halik theologian Czech Republic
  • Gillis Routher theologian Canada
  • Lia Zervino sociologist Argentina

The three main themes were: (i) The face of the Synodal Church (ii) All Disciples All Missionaries, and (iii) Teaching ties and building communities.

We began our group work, with a facilitator who led us gently through the different questions.  The method followed the “Conversations in the Spirit” model, which has been used extensively in the Synodal Pathway thus far, including in Irish dioceses.  Each person had a chance to speak from their own experience and prayer, and we were invited to listen carefully to the contribution of the other members of our group.  We listened respectfully to each person’s response, and at the end we put together a synthesis, which each group had to present to the full assembly.  Each of these Synthesis will provide material to be used as part of the Synod gathering in Rome next October.

On Thursday morning, we were brought to the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis, which took the form of a question and answer session.  Pope Francis was in very good spirits, and thanked us for been part of the Synodal conversations.  The Holy Father then spoke about the need to ensure that our Churches are always places were the doors are always open and places of welcome to everybody.  He reminded us that the parish Church is always a community of faith and invited us to be bold and be brave.  Pope Francis signed a personal letter to us inviting us to be missionaries of Synodality.  After our meeting concluded, Pope Francis greeted each of us personally.   Later we celebrated Mass at the Chair of Saint Peter, and the presider was Cardinal Mario Grech.

This time has been a very exciting and happy experience.  To meet with such a wonderful group of priests from across the world, and discover what united us together was faith.  The meeting also provided an opportunity to speak to the Vatican representatives about the hopes and challenges that the priests encounter in their daily lives.  Indeed, the Church as a whole could benefit from similar meetings on a regular basis.

We have now returned to our home dioceses and we know from our time together that the Synod is more than a good intention, it is rooted in God, and in the Holy Spirit.  It would be wonderful if all of the priests from our respective dioceses were offered the same opportunity afforded to us, to learn about this Synodal journey.  We would respectfully invite the Irish Episcopal Conference to consider this proposal.

Our prayer intention is that the Holy Spirit will give all the baptized much courage on this Synodal journey.

The Irish delegation from their respective dioceses:

  • Father Kevin McElhennon of Derry;
  • Father Peter Madden of Derry;
  • Father John McManus of Elphin;
  • Father Sean Cunningham of Tuam;
  • Father Jim Fegan of Ferns.




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