PARISH communities across Brisbane archdiocese are being invited to hold listening and dialogue sessions as the first, preparation stage of the nationwide Plenary Council 2020 gets underway.
Evangelisation Brisbane, on behalf of the archdiocese, has sent information brochures to parishes and communities explaining how the plenary process will work, and offering support to set up sessions.
The brochure explains the plenary council, with the formal approval of Pope Francis, is the highest formal gathering of all local churches and is a chance to dialogue about the future of the Catholic Church.
“The contemporary society of Australia has changed significantly, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been a significant and influential event that requires deep consideration and response,” the brochure states.
The plenary council will be a meeting of the entire Church in Australia, meaning everyone – bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful – with the intention of shaping the future course of the Church in this country.
And while it won’t affect matters of doctrine, it will have legislative power to reshape practices within the Church in Australia.
Information material sent to parishes includes a link to a three-minute video entitled “Plenary 2020 – what do we need to do?” – which clearly explains the preparation for the event, and how people can get involved.
Simply put, the listening and dialogue entails getting people together to pray, talk and listen, and then submit responses online to the plenary council.
“God speaks to us all and the Church needs to listen to everyone,” the council resource material states, adding encouragement from Pope Francis: “Speak boldly and with passion, but also listen with an open and humble heart.”
The invitation to listen and dialogue is being made in dioceses across Australia, with the backing of Church leaders.
“What is important is that we get the message out that this journey is very important for the Catholic Church in Australia,” Perth Archbishop Tim Costelloe, who is president of the Plenary Council Bishops’ Commission, said.
“This is a significant moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and I look forward to walking with the people of God as we look towards the future.
“No matter where you might find yourself in relation to the Church – deeply involved, only partially engaged, uncertain or disillusioned, on the margins, or a friendly or critical outsider looking in – we need to hear from you for we are sure that God speaks to us all: and the Church needs to listen to everyone.”
Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders added his voice to the plenary discussion.
“The bishops saw that there is an urgent need to grow a Church in Australia that will successfully engage society so as to face the obvious contradictions and challenges at work among us; the subjectivism, the materialism, the secularism, the continuing injustices and the negation of God in peoples’ lives,” he wrote in The Kimberley Record.
“It is my hope that such aspirational matters will be revealed and discussed thoroughly at the local level.
“Most importantly … we must listen to each other, to what is being said, during this phase in 2018 in the period up to Easter 2019.”
The most important next step is to submit a response.
This can be done electronically, via the plenary council website www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au.