The original five-year timeline for Ireland’s Synodal Pathway should be extended beyond 2026, according to its Steering Committee.
Also, every diocese needs a leadership team to engage with the challenges of preparing for a series of national synodal assemblies over the expanded timeline. The training of facilitators for synodal interaction at ground level needs to happen also, to help parishes in every diocese to prepare for these national assemblies.
These recommendations are outlined and explained in a 41-page report on the committee’s work since March 2021. They were considered by the full conference of Irish bishops at its Winter meeting this December. The report is entitled: ‘What does God want from the Church in Ireland at this time?‘
The Synodal Steering committee also recommended that this single group should now be expanded into a broader ‘National Animation Team‘ consisting of six working groups for:
- national assembly planning
- theology and sociology
- spirituality and formation
- communications and outreach
- the universal synod and other international engagement.
Difficulties acknowledged in the report include the relatively small proportion of the mass-going people of God that has so far had the opportunity for synodal dialogue, and the ‘wait and see’ attitude of many priests – who already tend to feel overburdened by existing workloads and the challenge of moving as soon as possible to a different model of lay-clergy co-responsibility for parish life.
This report on the work and recommendations of the Steering Committee is accompanied by another, on the findings so far of research carried out to help in the training of ground-level facilitators for synodal interaction – ‘Research for the Development of a Facilitative Leadership Training Programme‘.
Following its December 2023 meeting the conference of Irish bishops announced on December 6th that it had set up an interim committee to implement some of the proposals of this report from the Synodal Pathway Steering Committee, including:
- the formation or renewal of Diocesan Synodal Teams.
- the hosting of regional meetings in January 2024 with Diocesan Synodal Teams and representatives from the groups and associations to provide guidance and resources for both the Irish Synodal Pathway and the Universal Synod;
- the roll-out of a facilitative leadership training programme (based on the needs analysis in the research report above) throughout the spring of 2024.
First Irish National Synodal Assembly in 2025?
The bishops’ conference also declared that:
“In the longer term, the interim committee will also assist the Bishops’ Conference in the establishment of a national team for the remainder of the Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It will also assist in a process of discernment for the first theme/s of a National Synodal Assembly. The Bishops’ Conference plan to hold this first synodal assembly, in a series of assemblies, during the Autumn of 2025. This will coincide with Pope Francis’ designation of 2025 as a holy, Jubilee Year, with the theme ‘Pilgrims of Hope.'”
(This report was updated on Friday Dec 15th 2023, in light of the statement that followed the Winter meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference on Dec 6 but was not linked from the Archive page of the ICBC site until Dec 14th.)