The views of every Catholic in Aotearoa New Zealand will be sought during an expanded Synod of Bishops’ process announced by Pope Francis.
The Pope has asked all Catholic dioceses around the world to start consulting with parishioners from October 17 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 still-to-be-announced matters to be considered at the 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 – was scheduled for next year, but on 21 May, Pope Francis postponed it to October 2023 to widen it to include 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 believes it is imperative to listen to the People of God, which means going to local churches to hear what they say.”
Cardinal John says details of the consultation – including the matters to be discussed during it – will be made available to dioceses as soon as they are announced in Rome.