Addressing the members of the Association of Catholic Priests at their AGM on 19 October last, the recently appointed General Secretary of the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Julieann Moran, reflected upon the paths travelled so far in the process, and the paths yet to journey on both the Universal Synod and the Irish Synodal Pathway.
Ms Moran advised delegates on the next step in the Universal Synod, which is the Continental Stage. She informed them that a working document has been prepared by members of the Synod leadership team in Rome, its advisory committee, and approximately 20 other experts from across 17 countries. This document, the meeting was informed, had been prepared in a climate of listening, prayer and discernment, and it summarised all 112 submissions sent to the Synod office by national Bishops’ Conferences. The intention is for seven assemblies to be held for the continental stage and, of these, the European Assembly will take place in Prague from 5 to 12 February 2023. Following the continental assemblies, a further working document will then be prepared for the Universal Synod which will be held over two stages, in October 2023 and in October 2024.
Ms Moran urged members to treat the documents (local submissions, the national synthesis, and the working document) as “stimuli, not manifestos or declarations, but as documents at the service of this synodal journey, because the purpose of synodality is not about writing documents.” She continued, “The synodal journey of the Catholic Church in Ireland has definitely begun but preparing ourselves to think – and act – synodally, will not happen overnight. Any Synodal Assembly without prayer, preparation, and formation runs the risk of being merely a parliament of competing voices. So at the core of this journey, must be the continued listening to God by listening to one another.”
Following discussion around some discernment questions, Ms Moran suggested that members of the Church do not have to wait for a document to come from Rome, or an Exhortation from the Holy Father, or for a report published by the Bishops’ Conference, in order to live and model synodality. Ms Moran said, “rather, as the Church exists to be on mission, namely to Share the Good News, we know that the whole people of God is called to be on mission equally by virtue of everyone’s baptism.”
Finally, Ms Moran encouraged those gathered to consider all the ways in which synodal processes could be implemented, today, throughout the living Church, in “our parish pastoral councils, presbyteral councils, diocesan councils, boards of management, finance committees, in our parishes, schools, hospitals, and other institutions, even in our homes – wherever two or three are gathered in His name. It is time for action, we simply have to begin.”