Catholic Bishops are planning a grand synod that will bring together all sections of the Irish Church to examine the crisis of faith, respond to the need for reform and renewal, and respond to the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bishop Paul Dempsey of Aquonry and Bishop Fintan Gavin of Cork and Ross announced the decision during an online address “The Synod of Synods” by Jesuit theologian Father Gerry O’Hanlon, hosted by the ‘Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
Dr Dempsey, who is one of the newest and youngest members of the Irish hierarchy, has revealed that he is part of a subcommittee of six bishops within the Irish Bishops’ Conference which “is currently working to a synod in the near future “.
The group has already met and received advice from Cardinal Mario Grech, a senior Vatican prelate who is secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.
Dr Dempsey told members of the CAP and other Catholic reform groups who attended the webinar that as a Synod it would not be an end in itself but that he was considering defining “a way of ‘to be Church’ in Ireland.
Many Irish Catholics hope that a Synod will invigorate the Irish Church and give its dwindling number of lay faithful a voice in any program of renewal and change to fit the goals of the 21st century.
The Irish synod is expected to be announced by the bishops after their next meeting, according to Dr Gavin.
âI hope that after the next episcopal conference, we [will] start this process of conversation, engagement and dialogue.
He called on people to respond to the bishops’ opening because he felt that a synod was “the way forward.”
However, Bishop Dempsey said, âWe just don’t want this to end in a synod; it must be something that continues in the life of the Irish Church.
In an indication that the synod will be inclusive rather than exclusive, he added, âWe are very much aware that this cannot just be an internal synod – that it has to reach out to the different groups within our Church, and indeed , our country right now.
âSo please God we will walk together, and maybe we will struggle together to see where we might go as the Irish Church right now. “
In his speech, Father Gerry O’Hanlon spoke of the Synod of Bishops that Pope Francis has convened for October 2022 in Rome and whose theme is âFor a Synodal Church: communion, participation and missionâ.
Synodality, according to Father O’Hanlon, is a key strategy of Pope Francis in preparing the Church to meet the challenges of contemporary times. The term is often used to describe the process of collaboration and discernment that brings together bishops, priests, religious and lay people.
According to Father O’Hanlon, Pope Francis wants to develop a decentralized church giving more responsibilities to local churches and laity.
He said that under Francis’ pontificate there was a “sense of doors opening” and that the Pope believed that “what affects everyone should be dealt with by all â, in other words, that the areas that affect the laity should have a contribution from the laity.
He acknowledged that there had been considerable resistance from left-wing people in the Church to Francis’s approach as it was deemed too slow, and from right-wingers who saw it as a Trojan horse. “It will inevitably bring about changes, and they either fear it or they don’t like it.”