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Plenary Council sessions postponed until 2021 and 2022, an opportunity to use ‘extra time wisely’

Listening heart: Robert Falzon (left) prays at the opening of the two-day Brisbane Assembly on October 4 and 5 marking an important step on the historic Plenary Council 2020 journey – the start of the listening and discernment phase. Photo: Mark Bowling

THE long-anticipated Plenary Council 2020 sessions, the first of which had been scheduled for this October, were pushed back to October 2021 and April 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference decided to postpone the opening assembly by 12 months.

Adelaide remained the venue for the first assembly in October 2021. 

Sydney remained the venue for the second assembly in April 2022.

Plenary Council president Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said the one-year delay would provide more certainty about travel and social distancing guidelines for the assembly.

“Just as importantly, we believe that period of time will allow for an adequate period of preparation for the delegates and the Catholic community,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“The postponement was an unfortunate speed bump on the Church’s path to the Plenary Council assemblies, but we are committed to using this extra time wisely.”

Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said the preparation for the council would take on some new characteristics, shaped by the experience of the pandemic.

“A program of webinars, podcasts and other multimedia projects will be rolled out in the latter half of 2020 to help the People of God explore and share about how they respond to the Spirit and live out their own call to mission – as individuals and collectively,” she said.

“The material will be both formative and dialogical to help parishes, families, workplaces and other Catholic communities and organisations consider the unique contribution they make to the life and mission of the Church.”

Even with the council sessions delayed, the process continued.

Pentecost, on May 31, held the next step of the journey for the release of the Discernment and Writing Groups’ papers.

The papers focused on the six national themes, drawing on Scripture, Church writings and tradition, to inspire the agenda for the Plenary Council sessions.

“These papers are the fruits of communal discernment and provide a major focus for our continued prayer and reflection,” Archbishop Costelloe said. 

“They represent another significant step in our national discernment process as we move towards the working document, or Instrumentum Laboris, for the Council assemblies and the Council agenda.

“We sincerely thank the chairs and members of the Discernment and Writing Groups for their contribution and we ask all the faithful to continue to pray for the Church in Australia as we travel through the pandemic and towards October 2021.”

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