Local synod process getting a welcome extra four months

Pope Francis leads a meeting with representatives of bishops' conferences from around the world at the Vatican Oct. 9, 2021. The meeting came as the Vatican launches the process that will lead up to the assembly of the world Synod of Bishops in 2023. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Catholic dioceses and parishes around Aotearoa New Zealand will be welcoming the Vatican’s four-month extension for the local phase of the synod process, according to a media statement from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops recently extended the deadline of the first (local) phase of the two-year international synodal process from next April to next August 15.

Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe, secretary of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, said that the original timeframe was difficult for Southern Hemisphere countries because of the typical late-December to January holiday period, which sees many people away from their usual parishes.

“As well, travel and gathering restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in challenges for diocesan face-to-face engagement and more reliance on digital engagement,” he said. “Those at the margins are even harder to reach, and it is challenging to even engage those already connected with the idea of being a synodal church.”

“The extended date should allow each diocese more time to prepare parishes for synodality, and to engage more widely. It’s hoped that the ‘traffic light’ changes to the Covid-19 restrictions will allow people to gather more readily, particularly in Auckland and Hamilton,” Bishop Lowe said.

Pope Francis officially launched the synodal process – themed “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” – on October 10. The diocesan phase, now extended, began on October 17 in dioceses around the world. The Pope wants to hear what ordinary Catholics from around the world think of the future direction of the Church.

This “Synod on Synodality”  is the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Catholic Church.

After the diocesan phase of the process, the NZCBC will prepare a national synthesis for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Syntheses from around the world will then serve as the basis for the first edition of the Instrumentum Laboris, which will be refined during a continental process, and a final version will be used at the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, 2023.

Photo: Pope Francis leads a meeting with representatives of bishops’ conferences from around the world at the Vatican on October 9. The meeting came as the Vatican launched the process that will lead up to the assembly of the world Synod of Bishops in 2023. (CNS photo)

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Michael Otto

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