Pope Francis has given his approval for the Catholic Church to hold the first Plenary Council – the most significant national gathering that can be held – in Australia in more than 80 years.
‘The Council will be a unique opportunity for people to come together and listen to God in all the ways God speaks to us, and in particular by listening to one another as together we discern what God is asking of us at this time – a time when the Church in Australia is facing significant challenges.
‘We sincerely hope the preparation and celebration of the Plenary Council is a time when all parts of the Church listen to and dialogue with one another as we explore together how we might answer the question: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?”’
Australian Jesuit Br Ian Cribb has been appointed on the Executive Committee for the Plenary Council, and has been helping plan the consultation process.
In approving the Plenary Council, Pope Francis also endorsed the bishops’ nomination of Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB as the president of the Plenary Council. Archbishop Costelloe said he holds great hope that the Council will bring about a period of authentic renewal.
Archbishop Costelloe commented. ‘I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts.’
Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said she is inspired by the many faith-filled people across the country who have shared their hopes for the Church with her during a series of planning meetings.
‘People are both curious and passionate about how all people – particularly people who are marginalised, vulnerable or distant from the Church – can be part of preparing for the Plenary Council’, she said.
‘The process of listening and dialogue, beginning at Pentecost 2018, will help form the agenda for the Plenary Council. It’s a chance for us all to learn to become a truly listening Church. All people are invited to share their story of faith, of life and of their experience of the Church.’
The website for the Plenary Council was launched this week and helps people better understand how they can participate in the process. The first stage of the process will include Open Dialogue and Listening Sessions, which can be hosted by Catholic groups, staff of Catholic ministries, even families and individuals. Those participating in these sessions will be able to make submissions to help shape the agenda of the council. Resources for hosting a session will be available on the Plenary Council website in May.
The Diocese of Port Pirie hosted the first major gathering this month. More than 200 people gathered for the meeting.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ said, ‘At a time when the rural Church in Australia faces seemingly insurmountable challenges, it is essential that we remember we are a people of hope and we are proud to be leading the engagement with the Plenary Council.’
Visit the Plenary Council website at plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au