The Plenary attempted to capture the major issues affecting contemporary Church life in Australia, hearing from 222,000 people and the contribution of 17,457 submissions.Australian bishops approve historic Plenary Council decrees – The Catholic Leader
The Plenary Council second assembly in July brought together 277 Catholic members from across Australia. Photo: Fiona Basile
AUSTRALIA’s Catholic bishops have formally approved the acts and decrees of the historic Plenary Council – and the documents will now be sent to the Apostolic See for review.
The documents, comprising five volumes across hundreds of pages, were received at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s plenary meeting last week, according to the ACBC blog.
The Fifth Plenary Council held its final assembly in July with delegates directly engaging with some of the tough issues that have confronted the Australian Church – First Nations recognition and identity, historic child sexual abuse and the safeguarding that is now needed, and finding a greater role for women in the Church.
The Plenary attempted to capture the major issues affecting contemporary Church life in Australia, hearing from 222,000 people and the contribution of 17,457 submissions.
As the acts and decrees were received by ACBC members, the bishops sang the Te Deum – the Latin hymn to God the Father and Christ the Son – acknowledging the solemnity of the moment in the life of the Church in Australia.
“It was quite a poignant moment as we sensed – once again – the significance of the Council in the life of the Church in Australia,” Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said.
“In fact, my recent trip to Rome underlined how closely the Church around the world was watching the Plenary Council and how aspects of it are being lived out through the global Synod for a Synodal Church.”
The decrees are available on the Plenary Council website, where they were published after the Council’s second assembly.
“What we have sent to Rome is what emerged from the two assemblies, but also what was uncovered during the earlier stages of our journey,” Archbishop Costelloe, who also served as president of the Plenary Council, said.
“They are, in many ways, a capturing of – as Gaudium et Spes proposed from the Second Vatican Council – ‘the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties’ of the People of God.”
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The Bishops Conference also approved the terms of reference for the review of the implementation of the Plenary Council. The terms of reference were set out by the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, which concluded its work at last week’s plenary meeting.
Plenary Council vice-president Bishop Shane Mackinlay said the work of implementation – the Council’s third and final stage – will be critical.
“There might have been a deeper sense of excitement during the period of preparation and certainly through the time of the Council’s celebration, but it will be in the implementation that the fruits of these years will be seen,” he said.
“While the terms of reference and a means to review the ongoing rollout of the Council’s decisions are important, we have already seen local churches embracing the Council’s outcomes and the commitment to listening, dialogue and discernment embed itself.”
The implementation phase will see oversight and coordination for each decree of the Plenary Council entrusted to at least one of the Bishops Conference’s commissions.
Those commissions will provide reports to the May 2023 plenary meeting of the Bishops Conference. Another review will be undertaken in 2025, with a final review report to be published in 2027.
The terms of reference for the implementation phase of the Council have been published on the Plenary Council website: www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au