WelCom August 2021
The views of every Catholic in Aotearoa New Zealand will be sought during an expanded Synod of Bishops’ process announced by Pope Francis. The Synod has been postponed until 2023 so that an unprecedented consultation of Catholics can take place in advance.
The Pope has asked all Catholic dioceses around the world to start consulting with parishioners from October 17 this year, to get local-level views that bishops will take to the XVI Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023.
Cardinal John Dew, president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC), says each of the country’s six dioceses has been asked to consult parishioners about issues to be considered at the Bishops’ Assembly.
‘The Holy Father wants to hear the voices of all the baptised,’ said Cardinal John, the Archbishop of Wellington. ‘He believes the time is ripe for a wider participation of the people of God in a decision-making process that affects the whole Church and everyone in it.’
Regular assemblies of the Synod of Bishops have been held in Rome since Pope Paul VI created them in 1965 following the Second Vatican Council. The most recent regular assembly was Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment in 2018, which produced the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit. It was followed by the special Amazon assembly in 2019, which resulted in the exhortation Querida Amazonia.
The next regular assembly – titled For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission – will involve consultations with local parishes, bishops’ conferences and regional groupings of bishops.
Cardinal John says each bishop will appoint representatives to lead the consultations in their dioceses. ‘After that consultation, the New Zealand bishops will meet early next year to listen to what the Spirit has inspired in the churches entrusted to us.’
The NZCBC will then prepare a report for the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, a regional grouping that includes many of the South Pacific island states, Australia and New Zealand. That regional body and others like it around the world will draft documents that will go to the Synod office in Rome to help prepare the assembly’s working document.
‘Pope Francis has frequently called for the bishops, priests and people to walk together in a common mission of the Church,’ says Cardinal John. ‘He is also very clear that this is a process of discernment. He went on to say, ‘A Synod is nothing more than making explicit what Lumen Gentium says…’ (Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council.)
Cardinal John said he would be communicating to the Archdiocese and the Diocese of Palmerston North about the Synodal Process over the coming months. Pope Francis will open the Synod process on the weekend of 9–10 October in Rome, then every diocese in the world will have an Opening Mass on Sunday 17 October, 2021. The synodal consultation process for the Archdiocese of Wellington and the Diocese of Palmerston North will then follow.