01 Jul 2022

High hopes for national gathering

The Southern Cross July 2022

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The second assembly of the historic Fifth Plenary Council of Australia gets underway in Sydney this week (July 3-9) with 277 members considering 30 motions that have arisen from four years of national conversation.

Five observers, including Cardinal John Dew from New Zealand and Cardinal Maung Bo from Myanmar, will also attend the assembly.

All members of the Plenary Council will vote on the final wording of each of the motions, across two rounds. A consultative vote will be followed the next day by the deliberative vote of the bishops, after which the outcome of both rounds of voting will be announced.

Cardinal Dew said he considered it “a great honour” to be invited to be an observer for the Council, and he was looking forward to being in person for the second assembly, after participating online last October.

“The Church in Australia and the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand have had very good relationships over many years, and this is an opportunity to dialogue and share together regarding some of the questions that we all face in this part of the world,” he said.

“For me this is an opportunity to be with the Australian Church, clergy and lay people together, reflecting on how we live as the People of God in our part of the world today.”

“There are so many issues which need a Gospel response, and it is my hope that the Plenary Council and the Synod process will bring new life to the Church internationally.”

The Framework for Motions released last month forms the backbone of reflection, discussion and decision during the assembly.

“Our time together in Sydney will be enormously significant for the whole Catholic community, and for our wider society,” Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB told members.

“As we strive to discern, and then to embrace, all that God is asking of us now and as we move into the future, we will be challenged to recognise both the strengths and weaknesses of ‘who we are’ and the hope which lies in ‘who God is calling us to become’.”

Bishop Shane Mackinlay, the vice president of the Plenary Council, said in recent months the Council’s drafting committee had worked collaboratively to prepare the Framework for Motions, drawing on more than 30 contributors, including Council members, advisers and theologians.

A key part of this process has also been the input received from nearly 130 Council members, who provided feedback on the initial working document that was distributed to them for reflection.

“It has been a great example of how bishops, priests, Religious and lay people can work together to create an opportunity for important conversations within the Church,” he said.

The motions are grouped under the following themes: Reconciliation: Healing Wounds, Receiving Gifts; Choosing Repentance – Seeking Healing; Called by Christ – Sent Forth as Missionary Disciples; Witnessing to the Equal Dignity of Women and Men; Communion in Grace: Sacrament to the World; Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry;  At the Service of Communion, Participation and Mission: Governance; and Integral Ecology and Conversion for the Sake of Our Common Home.

Bishop Mackinlay said that the commitment to “co-responsibility” that guided the document’s preparation would also be evident during the second assembly.

“As we prepare to conclude this Plenary Council, our first in 85 years and the first with the voice of women and lay people present, we invite the People of God in Australia to pray for all members in these final weeks of preparation,” he said.

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