Catholic bishops plan synod to talk reform and address crisis of faith among Irish laity
CATHOLIC bishops are planning a major synod which will bring all sections of the Irish Church together to look at the crisis of faith, address the need for reform and renewal, and respond to the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bishop Paul Dempsey of Achonry and Bishop Fintan Gavin of Cork and Ross announced the move at an online address ‘The Synod on Synods’ by Jesuit theologian Fr Gerry O’Hanlon, hosted by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
Dr Dempsey revealed that he is part of a subcommittee of six bishops within the Irish Bishops Conference which is “actually working towards a synod in the near future”.
The group has already met and received advice from Cardinal Mario Grech, a top Vatican prelate who is Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
Dr Dempsey told the members of the ACP and other Catholic reform groups in the webinar that a synod will not be an end in itself but plans to set out “a way of being Church” in Ireland.
Many Irish Catholics hope a synod will reinvigorate the Church and give its declining number of lay faithful a voice in any programme for renewal and change to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century.
The Irish synod is expected to be announced by the bishops after their next meeting, according to Dr Gavin.
“Hopefully after the next bishops’ conference, we [will] begin that process of conversation, engagement and dialogue.” He appealed to people to respond to the bishops’ openness because he felt that a synod was “the way forward”.
However, Dr Dempsey said: “We just don’t want it to end in a synod; it has to be something that continues in the life of the Irish Church.”
In an indication that the synod will be inclusive rather than exclusive, he added: “We are really conscious that this can’t just be an in-house synod – that it has to reach out to the various groups within our Church, and indeed, our country at this time.”
“So please, God, we will walk together, and we will struggle maybe together to see where we might go as an Irish Church at this time.”
In his address, Fr Gerry O’Hanlon spoke about the Synod of Bishops which Pope Francis has called for October 2022 in Rome and which has the theme, ‘For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission’.
Synodality, according to Fr O’Hanlon, is a key strategy of Pope Francis in making the Church ready to meet the challenges of contemporary times. The term is often used to describe the process of collaboration which brings together bishops, priests, religious and the laity.
According to Fr O’Hanlon, Pope Francis wants to develop a decentralised church giving more responsibility back to local churches and the laity.
He said that under the Pope’s pontificate there was a “sense of doors opening” and that the Pope believed that “what affects all should be treated by all”, in other words, that areas which affect the laity should have an input from the laity.
He said there had been considerable resistance from people on the left of the church to Francis’ approach, as it was felt to be too slow, and from people on the right, who see it as a Trojan horse.
“It is going to bring change inevitably, and they’re afraid of that or they don’t like that,” Fr O’Hanlon said.