WelCom May 2023
The Catholic bishops of Oceania say their people’s reflections for the global Synod of Bishops for a Synodal Church have left them feeling ‘peace and joy’ but also called them to be prophetic and ready to ‘model ourselves on the love we proclaim’.
The bishops met in Fiji from 5–10 February for the quadrennial assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) and as part of the continental stage of the synod on synodality. They spent part of that gathering considering the region’s response to the Synod’s Working Document for the Continental Stage, titled Enlarge the Space of Your Tent.
The Oceania response was drafted by a writing and discernment group, which synthesised reports from the four bishops’ conferences and the local Eastern Catholic Churches. The bishops reviewed and refined the document ‘in a context of prayer and contemplation’.
We do not want to build a different Church, but rather to renew and revitalise the Church which we love.Oceania bishops
The FCBCO’s executive council approved and submitted the response to the Synod Secretariat in Rome at the end of March. It was published in April [tinyurl.com/Oceania-Bishops-Synod].
The FCBCO comprises the episcopal conferences of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific and Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands. Archbishop Paul Martin sm of Wellington and Bishop Michael Dooley of Dunedin took part as New Zealand’s representatives on the FCBCO executive.
Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay, Australia, who was appointed president of the FCBCO at the February assembly, said while the report captured the voices of Catholics across Oceania, the bishops felt the need to offer a pastoral response.
‘One of the key works of a bishop is to teach. Gathered as the shepherds of the people of Oceania, we wanted to share our prayerful and considered thoughts on what we had heard,’ he said.
‘As we bishops wrote, through this Synod process: “we do not want to build a different Church, but rather to renew and revitalise the Church which we love”. That starts with each and every one of us – all the baptised – individually, but also in communion with one another.’
The Oceania report outlines the fruits of the discernment that took place in response to Enlarge the Space of Your Tent, drawing together common themes, issues and insights. It also highlights tensions and differences, and it identifies priorities and calls to action.
The document concedes the responses gathered represented only a small proportion of the Catholic population, and did not always contain the breadth and depth of local lived experiences.
‘The document captures the hopes and concerns of our people, and this might give the impression that the Church is in disarray,’ the bishops’ pastoral reflection says.
‘However, it is precisely in places and times of pain and suffering that Christ reveals Himself. This confidence and faith in His presence can guide us in our response.’
Regional bishops’ conferences around the world were invited to prepare responses to the Working Document for the Continental Stage, with the seven submissions helping to shape the working document (instrumentum laboris) for the first of two sessions of the XVI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in Rome this October. The second session is scheduled for October 2024.
‘We pray – and we believe – that Oceania’s hope-filled contribution will help the work of the Synod move forward in fidelity to the Holy Spirit,’ Bishop Randazzo said.