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Australian bishops start nine-month plenary council | Catholic National Register


A culture of secularism in Australian society, as well as a declining religious practice among Catholics, are among the priorities that will be discussed at the meeting, Archbishop Fisher said.

SYDNEY, Australia – Australia’s Fifth Plenary Council kicked off Sunday with an opening Mass in Perth to begin its first online assembly October 3-10.

The council represents “a historic opportunity for the Catholic Church in Australia to renew its commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ,” said Daniel Ang, director of the Archdiocese of Sydney Evangelism Center.

“The specific mandate of the Plenary Council to consider ways in which the Church in Australia can most faithfully and fruitfully carry out its mission amid the challenges and opportunities of our time,” Ang wrote in The Catholic Weekly.

A plenary council is the highest formal gathering of all the particular Churches in a country, and it has legislative and governmental authority.

Australia’s plenary council is proceeding with two main assemblies over the next nine months. The first assembly is held mostly online due to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions from October 3-10, followed by a second assembly from July 4-9, 2022 in Sydney.

“The deliberations of the Plenary Council must bear in mind the expressed purpose of the Council which is” to decide what seems opportune for the growth of the faith, the organization of common pastoral action, and the regulation of morals. and the common ecclesiastical discipline which is to be observed, promoted and protected, ”Ang said, citing Code of Canon Law 445.

Ang is a member of the board’s executive committee and co-author of his Instrumentum Laboris, or working paper.

He declared that the next plenary council can be “a concrete expression of the synodality to which Pope Francis invites the whole Church”.

“The function of the Plenary Council is not to define or determine articles of faith (what Catholics must believe) or to legislate on matters of discipline that the Holy See has reserved for itself,” he said. he declares.

“Some questions that may be raised will belong to the universal tradition and teaching of the Catholic Church. They are, in this sense, beyond the capacity of the Church in Australia to change. This does not mean that they cannot be discussed; only that they cannot be decided by the Church in Australia.

“However, a plenary council can pass legislation regulating how doctrine is to be taught, how worship is to be regulated, and how governance is to be best exercised in practice. It is these concrete questions that the Council can consider for the benefit of the Church’s missionary mandate.

The full council will be more effective, Ang noted, if it avoids “the temptation of a ‘new Pelagianism’ that attempts to correct problems and reduce difficulties and tensions within the Church by building on bureaucratic and administrative reforms ”.

“As Pope Francis pointed out to the Church in Germany, it is the encounter with Christ and the irruption of the Holy Spirit into hearts and structures that renew the whole body of the Church, and not the simple reorganization of existing realities, ”he said.

This will be the first plenary council held in Australia since 1937. Almost 300 delegates, called “members”, will attend meetings in person on behalf of their dioceses, eparchies or religious orders.

The Vatican initially authorized the holding of the Australian Plenary Council in 2016. Originally scheduled for October 2020, the council has been delayed from last year due to the pandemic.

As many Catholic parishes, schools and hospitals thrive across the country, the Church in Australia faces a number of serious challenges, said Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney. Catholic weekly.

The Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released a report in 2017 that revealed serious gaps in protecting children from abuse in the Catholic Church and other major institutions across the country. The Australian Bishops’ Conference has responded positively to almost all of the Royal Commission recommendations.

The abuse crisis and the royal commission “have brought with them well-justified criticism and understandable disillusionment, continued scrutiny and demands for reform, not only to ensure that all situations in the church are safe for children and vulnerable adults, but also to ensure transparency and accountability in all areas of ecclesial life, ”Bishop Fisher reflected.

A culture of secularism in Australian society, as well as a declining religious practice among Catholics, are among the priorities that will be discussed at the meeting, Archbishop Fisher said.

Currently, only 1 in 10 Catholics in Australia attend Mass regularly, he said, and the Church in Australia is experiencing a vocation crisis, not only in the priesthood, but also in marriage and religious life.

“It is with great hope and anticipation that we Catholics in Australia enter this fifth Plenary Council in our short history, with the common desire that the Church in Australia experience greater conversion under the influence of the Spirit of Christ and be renewed and ultimately better equipped to proclaim the steadfast Gospel with new ardor and vitality, ”said Ang.

“Our Catholic tradition is none other than the reception of Jesus by the Church through time under the direction of this Holy Spirit and in this time of challenge and opportunity for the Church in Australia, it behooves us to seek, receive and now express to ourselves in the days to come what this Spirit is saying to the churches.