During their Winter General Meeting in Maynooth bishops spent extensive time discussing the Universal Synod and the Irish Synodal Pathway.
Bishops were briefed by Bishop Brendan Leahy and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, the two bishop nominees of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference that attended the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome from 4 – 29 October. The two bishops had previously given a full report to the Standing Committee of the Bishops’ Conference, which is available at www.synod.ie/bishopsreport
Bishops were advised that the first stage of the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland is now complete. This two-year stage, interwoven with the universal synodal process, concluded with two significant and complementary reports from the National Steering Committee, both now available on synod.ie:
• Research for the Development of a Facilitative Leadership Training Programme Prepared for the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland; and,
• What does God want from the Church in Ireland at this time? Report from the Steering Committee for the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
An interim committee for the Irish Synodal Pathway has now been formed by the Bishops’ Conference in order to implement some of the immediate proposals from the National Steering Committee’s report. These include:
– the formation or renewal of Diocesan Synodal Teams. The success of the Irish Synodal Pathway requires continued engagement in the parishes across the 26 dioceses on the island of Ireland, as well as engagement by religious communities, ecclesial movements and associations of lay faithful;
– the hosting of regional meetings in January 2024 with Diocesan Synodal Teams and representatives from the groups and associations to provide guidance and resources for both the Irish Synodal Pathway and the Universal Synod; and
– the roll-out of a facilitative leadership training programme (based on the needs analysis in the research report above) throughout the spring of 2024.
In the longer term, the interim committee will also assist the Bishops’ Conference in the establishment of a national team for the remainder of the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It will also assist in a process of discernment for the first theme/s of a National Synodal Assembly. The Bishops’ Conference plan to hold this first synodal assembly, in a series of assemblies, during the Autumn of 2025, to coincide with Pope Francis’ designation of 2025 as a holy, Jubilee Year, with the theme ‘Pilgrims of Hope.’