Synod opened in New Zealand dioceses

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn has urged people in his diocese to “unmute ourselves”, share their dreams for the Church, as well as consider “outrageous” issues in walking the synodal journey.  

As Auckland remained in level 3 lockdown, the bishop led the liturgy opening the diocesan phase of the 2021-2023 synod on Zoom. The liturgy was also streamed on Facebook live and YouTube.  

Bishop Dunn said for the Auckland diocese synodal journey, people will be asked next month to gather in small groups.  

“I realise that this couldn’t be a more inconvenient time for us in Auckland diocese. We’re in lockdown. It’s coming up for Christmas and the summer break . . . It might have to be on Zoom or online, please God, it might be able to be in person,” he said. “But we’re asking people to share what is in your hearts and to listen to what others have to say.”  

The bishop suggested that some of the questions that people could ponder include: What is our dream for the Church? How do we think the Church could or should change? How would we like the Church to be?  

“One really big question, it’s a little bit of an outrageous one, is: does the current parish structure suit our purposes, especially in an urban setting? Parishes have been very resilient through history, but are we perhaps being called to think of a different model or different models in a large city like Auckland city itself?” he added.  

He also asked the people to reflect on how effective we are as a Church in caring for the poor.  

“Even with the present vaccination programme in New Zealand, one of the points being highlighted in the past couple of weeks has been groups who feel on the fringes of society. They feel that they don’t belong to mainstream New Zealand society. That mainstream New Zealand society doesn’t care about them. Are we caring for them?” Bishop Dunn asked.  

The bishop stressed that, even as people share their thoughts and dreams, they should listen to others, especially those who may be overlooked in our society. 

 

Wellington 

 

Wellington Cardinal John Dew, in his homily at the Mass for the opening of the synod, stressed the call to serve. He celebrated Mass at St Teresa’s Pro-Cathedral, Karori.  

The cardinal recalled being struck by a couple of lines in Pope Francis’ speech at the synod on the family in 2015.    

“I remember two things from his speech. The first was ‘the only authority we have is the authority of service.’ I have repeated it many, many times, and I will never forget him saying those words,” he said. “The second was, ‘it is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium’.”  

Cardinal Dew said that this particular synod is about what kind of Church we imagine and want for the future.   

“It’s hard to be succinct and to put into a homily what ‘synodality’ is, but, in a nutshell, it is about all members of the Church, all of us, walking the path of life together, truly listening to and being of service to one another,” he said.  

The cardinal said Pope Francis is determined that this synod will re-capture the vision of the Second Vatican Council.  

“Let’s make it an adventure: walking together with faith; listening to each other (as Francis put it, ‘How good is the hearing of your heart?’); engaging in a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit, and supporting one another, looking for new paths and new ways of speaking,” he said.  

 

Christchurch 

 

In Christchurch diocese, Archbishop Paul Martin, SM, said that one of the challenges the Church has, at present, is how to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.   

The archbishop celebrated the opening Mass for the Synod at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.  

“In the past we tended to rely on the structure of the Church to do all of this. The priests and nuns and brothers were the full-time workers, and the lay people worked with them on this in keeping the Church going,” he said. “It was a Church that was inherently hierarchical, and people knew their place.”  

The archbishop said that the Holy Spirit, through the Second Vatican Council, opened the Church to the world. This meant all the faithful are to be involved in the life of the Church and bring others to the Church through engagement with the world.  

“The fundamental image that is used for this is that of the journey of faith. We are all on this journey together. We need each other for support as we walk together on this earth in preparation for the next. We have the life of God within us and amongst us, and so that is the framework for what we are called to do and be,” he said.  

The archbishop exhorted the people to participate in group meetings around the diocese, and share their thoughts and reflections on what they want the Church to be. 

 

Dunedin 

 

Dunedin Bishop Michael Dooley told NZ Catholic that resources for the diocesan phase of the synod will go to parishes to help in “holding listening groups, take part in an online survey, and contribute feedback in whatever way possible”.  

Bishop Dooley opened the synod with a Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral. A planning group is meeting regularly, and the Dunedin diocese contact person for the synod is Stephanie Swann.   

“I see this synod as a great initiative from Pope Francis to help us as a Church to become better listeners, and then to move onto the next step of discernment and action in mission,” he said.  

“As a diocese, we will gather feedback from as many people as possible, and then submit it in February 2022, but we will not want to stop at that. We are planning to try [to] continue the synodal listening process within the diocese,” Bishop Dooley said. 

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Rowena Orejana

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