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On the road together

On the road together

By Paul Dobbyn

BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge hopes the Synod on the Family can find, as the Second Vatican Council did, a new language to speak on society’s many “hot button” issues.

“That’s what the council did and it was more than just words,” he said.

The archbishop, along with Darwin Bishop Eugene Hurley, was elected by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, to attend the second session of the Synod on the Family in Rome in October next year.

“I didn’t expect to be elected, but I’m very happy to be going,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“The questions that gather around marriage and the family matter to everyone.

“In a sense, they’re where the rubber hits the road for the Church.

“That’s why this synod has a special edge and has stirred such wide interest.”

Archbishop Coleridge said it was difficult to predict what would emerge from the second session next year, but media reports on the first session in October this year “tended to be melodramatic”.

“This year, we had the first session preceded by a time of preparation that included the questionnaire,” he said.

“At that session, the bishops spoke freely and openly, as the Pope had encouraged them to do.

“There were reports of brawls between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’.

“The reality in the Synod Hall itself was, I’m told, much more complex and fraternal.

“The bishops were striving together to find a way of staying faithful to the teaching of Christ and the Church, and yet deal compassionately and realistically – in other words pastorally – with the many messy situations that come with human relationships.”

Archbishop Coleridge described the first session as “really a turning of the soil”.

“Now the whole Church is on a journey from the first session of the synod to the next session in October next year,” he said.

“The word ‘synod’ means ‘on the road together’, and everyone is part of the journey.

“Everyone has a word to speak – not just the bishops who’ll be in the Synod Hall.

“Bishops will have to listen to many voices before they speak at the synod, and at the moment we’re looking at how that might be done.”

Archbishop Coleridge said his further hope for the synod was it “will be able to find new ways of encouraging and supporting families who often have to swim against the tide of culture in places like Australia”.

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