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Archbishop Mark Coleridge at a liturgy on Good Friday in Brisbane's Cathedral Archbishop Mark Coleridge at a liturgy on Good Friday in Brisbane's Cathedral  (ANSA)

Australian Bishops urge further consultation on leaked governance report

Archbishop Mark Coleridge issues a statement regarding a leaked report on Church governance in Australia, and calls for further consultation before the final version can be released.

By Vatican News

The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has called a leaked report on Church governance “an interim version” and not the final report.

The report is entitled “The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia”. The Bishops commissioned the 208-page report and handpicked 14 people—including lay people, clergy, and international experts—to write it.

The report makes 86 recommendations for changes in the governance of the Catholic Church in Australia. They hit on issues such as subsidiarity, administration, synodality, dialogue, discernment, and leadership, as well as offering concrete suggestions for strengthening the role of the laity at parish and diocesan levels.

Terms of reference not fulfilled

In a statement released on 12 June, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the terms of reference set forth for the governance review have not yet been fulfilled.

He said those terms were set out in a letter he wrote in March 2019 to the Chair of the Implementation Advisory Group.

The letter, said Archbishop Coleridge, required the final report to be “finalised in consultation with the Conference; and any matters pertaining to the Holy See, Plenary Council or other parties should be conveyed to them prior to publication.”

The Bishops’ Conference also retained the right to decide upon the timing of publication.

Archbishop Coleridge said the Bishops had not finished consulting with the Holy See before the report was leaked on 1 June.

Report requires further reflection

Archbishop Coleridge said Australia’s Bishops are “profoundly grateful” for the report, but that they require more time to amend and clarify certain points.

When it was presented at the 7-14 May plenary meeting, he said, the Bishops “had not had time to read and reflect upon the report in the way that it warrants.”

So, they have been given until 17 July to provide feedback, which will be used to amend the governance report.

The final version will then be published in late July or early August. Catholics can then approach their local Bishop with feedback to “help him in shaping his response.”

The Bishops will “decide upon their response to the report” at their November plenary meeting.

Holy Spirit will have final say

Archbishop Coleridge said the Bishops’ Conference regards the governance report as an “integral part” of the Australian Church’s journey toward the Plenary Council, which should take place in late 2021 and mid-2022.

The Plenary Council, concluded Archbishop Coleridge, will determine the Church’s response to the report.

“Given that the Council is the work of the Holy Spirit,” he said, “it is the Holy Spirit who will have the final say.”

15 June 2020, 11:21