Members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference gathered in-person last week for their Spring 2022 General Meeting at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. The President of the Conference is Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and the Vice-President is Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin.
Bishops were encouraged to hear of how the Synodal pathway is gaining momentum in parishes and expressed thanks to the Steering Committee and Task Group for their generous commitment. A network of local listening sessions is now underway across Ireland in response to the invitation for synodal conversations during this first year of the Irish Synodal Pathway, and this coincides with the Universal Synodal Pathway launched by Pope Francis.
There is a growing awareness and engagement in the process. Now that the social restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic have been lifted, bishops see Lent as an ideal timeframe for individuals and parishes, religious orders, ecclesial movements and others groups to focus on the Synodal Pathway, so as to reach out also in creative ways to hear the stories and views of those who might not normally be in Church circles.
Some dioceses have already received many written submissions around this year’s themes: as people of faith, how are we journeying together? How are we reaching out to others? After Easter, on the basis of the Synodal conversations, each diocese will be preparing a ten-page synthesis. The Synod Task Group will shortly be meeting with Synod Diocesan Delegates to offer some direction and support in preparing the synthesis.
A National Synodal event will be held on 18 June next to discern the themes that are to be forwarded from Ireland to the Universal Synodal pathway. In the meantime, bishops welcome Pope Francis’ encouragement of the formal institution of new ministries in the life of the Church. Bishops recognise how the ministries of lector, acolyte and catechist – open to women and to men – will open up new forms of institutional leadership in the Church in Ireland. A task group has been established to explore how best to shape the identity, formation and mission of such ministries in Ireland.