Members of the Discernment and Writing Group for Oceania who met from 9-13 January 2023 Members of the Discernment and Writing Group for Oceania who met from 9-13 January 2023

Oceania Continental Assembly for the Synod begins on Sunday

Two Continental Assemblies for the Synod on Synodality begin on Sunday February 5. Representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe and Oceania will be joined by other members of the faithful to conclude the Continental Stage of the Synod.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

The Federation of Catholic Bishop’s Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) has organized its Continental Assembly in Suva, Fiji. This Federation is made up of the Episcopal Conferences of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Australia, and the Pacific. The Synod process has been guided by an Executive Committee of eight bishops, a five-member theological working group, and a nine-member Task Force, in close connection with the FCBCO headquarters in Suva.

Local stage of the synodal process

As with the rest of the universal Church, the Synod kicked off in October 2020 with the Local or National Stage of the Synod. Each diocese was invited to organize consultations of not only members of the Catholic faith of whatever walk of life, but also of those who do not participate actively in the life of the Church, or who are members of other Christian confessions, of other religions, or who profess no religion. All of these consultations were requested by Pope Francis himself in order to understand how the Church is walking together and how it can better walk together with each person.

Each Episcopal Conference then submitted a Synthesis of these consultations (Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, Pacific). These syntheses contributed to the Working Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) which launched the Continental Stage of the Synodal Process.

Discernment and Writing group for Oceania on January meeting

Continental stage of the synodal process

As the DCS states, this phase is meant to continue the synodal “process of listening, dialogue and discernment, the reflection will focus on three questions”. The Episcopal Conferences, in union with their local Church and the universal Church, were asked to carry out a consultation using the DCS as the basis for reflecting on these three questions. They were asked to identify the intuitions contained in the DCS, that resonate the most with the experience of their territory, the questions or issues that need further attention in the next steps of the synodal process, and the priorities or recurring themes they would like to be discussed in the First Session of the Synod to be held in October 2023.

The Continental Stage process undertaken by the FCBCO consisted of:

 - Discernment process on the document within each entity making up the FCBCO (27 November – 9 December)

 - Gathering of the 20-member Discernment and Writing Group to pray, reflect and synthesize the submitted material (9-13 January)

 - Assembly in Suva which will consist of two discernment sessions on the draft of the synthesize prepared by the Discernment and Writing Group in January (5-10 February)

Suva Assembly of the Continental Stage

Just a few days ago, Cardinals Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich,  Archbishop of Luxembourg and general rapporteur for the Synod on Synodality, wrote a letter to Bishops communicating “a few considerations for a common understanding of the synodal process, its progress, and the meaning of the current Continental stage.”

The Suva Assembly is one more step in the Continental Stage. It will begin on Sunday with the Celebration of Holy Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, followed by a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony. Later on Sunday, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Archbishop Loy Chong, President of the FCBCO, will welcome those gathered and explain what they can expect during the week. Various live transmissions are scheduled to take place throughout the week, including:

 - Opening Mass on Sunday (10 am local time on Sunday, 4 February; 5 pm EST Saturday, 4 February)

 - Traditional Welcome Ceremony on Sunday (12 pm local time on Sunday, 4 February; 7 pm EST, Saturday, 4 February)

 - Fijian Itaukei inculturated Mass (5 pm on Tuesday, 7 February; Midnight EST, Tuesday, 7 February)

 - Missioning Mass (4 pm local time on Friday, February 10; 11 pm EST, Thursday, February 9)

Schedule with EST times to watch the live transmissions from the Suva Assembly
Schedule with EST times to watch the live transmissions from the Suva Assembly

All live transmissions will be live-streamed through the FCBCO Facebook page.

Suva Assembly Follow-up

In mid-March, the revised draft of the Oceania Submission worked on at the Suva Assembly will be reviewed, discussed, and verified by the Executive members of the FCBCO, members of the Oceania Task Force, and the Discernment Writing Group. The final draft will then be submitted to the General Secretariat for the Synod by 31 March. This submission, as well as the other six submissions from the other Continents, will then form the basis of the Instrumentum laboris which will be discussed at the First Session of the Synod in October.

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03 February 2023, 13:02