General Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania - FCBCO Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality General Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania - FCBCO Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality 

Church in Oceania sees synodality as path forward

In the final document at the end of the continental stage of the Synodal process, the People of God emphasize the need for inclusion, care for our common home, and other priorities for the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

By Christopher Wells

The Church in Oceania has published its response to the Working Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) of the ongoing Synod on Synodality, highlighting themes including inclusion, the role of women in the Church, the ecological crisis, and outreach to young people.

The document begins by noting the rich diversity of the continent of Oceania and the generally positive experience of synodality, while acknowledging concerns about whether the People of God would truly be heard or whether synodality could end up being harmful to the Church. Nonetheless, the discernment process revealed that many participants were “greatly impressed by global calls for a synodal Church” and felt that the DCS captured “a truly global experience of synodality.”

The fruits of discernment

The longest section dealt with common themes, issues, and insights that arose as “fruits” of the discernment process. These included concerns about divisions within the Church and an acknowledgement of the need for inclusion; questions about Church teaching and the role of women in the Church; the importance of reaching out to young people and of ensuring formation for all.

The Oceania document also discerned tensions within the local Churches, noting the presence of different pastoral issues that arose in different contexts. The experience of those with “diverse experiences of sexuality and gender” and community responses to the issue was highlighted, as were tensions regarding Church teaching, the sexual abuse crisis, and the issue of inculturation.

Gaps and omissions in the DCS

Reflecting on the DCS, the Church in Oceania noted gaps and omissions in the Synodal document, insisting on the need to give more attention to the ecological crisis, which is of particular concern to the people of the continent. Religious life, the vocation of marriage, the role of the laity, life issues, and growing restrictions on religious liberty were indicated as areas that deserved greater attention.

Priorities for the General Assembly

Looking ahead to the General Assembly set to take place in October, the Oceania document identified priorities for the Synod at the level of the universal Church, emphasizing the need for clear direction with regard to mission and the necessity for the Church to become more synodal at every level.

The priorities also highlighted, once again, the question of care for our common home, the role of women and young people in the Church, and the need for formation at all levels.

The Holy Spirit at work

The Church in Oceania concluded its report by acknowledging the working of the Holy Spirit in the synodal process thus far, noting that participants already felt changed by the process and were waiting expectantly for the next stage of the Synod. And, speaking in the name of the People of God, they challenged the upcoming General Assembly to take up the call of the DCS to “enlarge the space of your tent.”

Finally, following the body of the text, the Bishops of Oceania added their own “pastoral response” to the document. The president of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania, Bishop Anthony Randazzo explained, “Gathered as the shepherds of the people of Oceania, we wanted to share our prayerful and considered thoughts on what we had heard.”

Pastoral response of Oceania’s Bishops

The Bishops expressed their confidence in the People of God, while also hoping for greater participation in future stages of the synodal process. They noted that growth in synodality will take time, emphasizing that renewal in the Church begins with personal conversion, and involves everyone walking together.

While expressing some concerns about the document, they also emphasized their joy and hope at the process: “Having reflected on this document together at our Assembly, we feel peace and joy. We also feel called to be prophetic.”

The Bishops concluded, “We need to model ourselves on the love we proclaim. We are sent forth just as Jesus sent forth the apostles.”

The complete text of the Final Document of the Continental Stage in Oceania is on the Synod website. The Synod page provides links to all the Continental Documents as they become available.

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13 April 2023, 16:42