‘We look forward to hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches’ – Bishops

In accordance with public health guidance to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, members of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference gathered remotely last week for their Winter 2021 General Meeting via video-link, instead of the usual location at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Following the meeting, Bishops provided an update on the Synodal Pathway in Ireland:

“In updating one another on initiatives across the dioceses of Ireland, we are grateful for the many developments already experienced in the first stage of the Synodal Pathway. A wide range of people have indicated their interest in, and support for, the process including webinars and retreats based on the theme of synodality. In particular, the active encouragement and engagement on the part of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI) has helped the synodal process get off to a good start.

We particularly wish to highlight the significance of prayer for the whole Synodal Pathway. We note that the Synodal Prayer to the Holy Spirit is often recited at gatherings and during liturgies. Prayer cards with the text of the prayer have been printed.

Since the opening moments of liturgical celebration and prayers in October, dioceses have begun engaging actively and creatively with the topics of the first phase of the national synodal pathway that coincides with the universal synodal process with its focus on Communion-Participation-Mission. Diocesan synodal delegates and teams have been established. Training is being put in place for local parish synodal representatives. Local parishes are beginning to hold listening sessions. We commend the creative plans that are afoot to devise other ways (for instance, pop-up cafés in a shopping centre) to meet people who might not come regularly to Church.

Under the stewardship of the Steering Committee and the Task Group, regional meetings of the diocesan delegates have taken place, a website will very shortly be in place and further resources provided. The Steering Committee and Task Group also intend to engage actively with other bodies that operate beyond diocesan boundaries such as religious orders, associations and other groupings. In particular, we wish to involve sisters and brothers of other Churches in reflecting with us on our ‘journeying together’ as disciples of Christ.

The first phase of the Synodal Pathway will continue until June 2022. It will see the diocesan, parish and other initiatives continue and gain momentum, especially during the season of Lent. After Easter next year, dioceses will begin to gather up the fruits of this first phase by holding diocesan pre-synodal gatherings to listen together in a spirit of prayer and sharing to what their diocese has heard and to discern what they would want to feed into the universal synodal process. This will lead to the composition of a report from each diocese for the Bishops’ Conference. This report will also be a summary of the first phase in the diocese of the national Synodal Pathway with its focus on how we are ‘journeying together’.

Upon receiving the diocesan reports, the Bishops’ Conference will then proceed in synodal style to draw up its report to be submitted in August to the Holy See.

We look forward to hearing “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7) and encourage all interested in participating in this moment to pray for the success of the synodal process and to support local parishes in this endeavour.”

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