Landmark synod meeting an 'important moment in the life of the Irish Catholic Church'
A GREATER role for women, lay ministry and sexuality were among the common themes to emerge across the Irish Catholic Church as dioceses north and south set out their thoughts, concerns and priorities at the National Pre-Synodal Assembly.
The landmark event, held in Athlone and nearby Clonmacnoise last Saturday, will help form Ireland's contribution to a 'Synod on Synods' to be held at the Vatican next year, as well as shape a future Irish National Synod.
The so-called Synodal Pathway process started last year, with each diocese considering the issues confronting the Church as it faces a third millennium.
Bishop Brendan Leahy, deputy chair of the Synodal Pathway steering committee said shared themes across the dioceses included "the continuing importance of faith in people's lives; reflections on the sense of belonging; expressions of how abuse is part of the story of the Church; a call for much greater roles of women at all levels in the future of Church; attention to sexuality, relationships and LGBTQI+ concerns; references to topics such as education and catechesis, youth, family and co-responsible leadership, lay ministry, culture and the impact of Covid-19; as well as to faith formation, clergy and liturgy".
Dr Nicola Brady, who chairs the steering committee, said the pre-synodal assembly was "an important moment in the life of the Church".
"There is a deep sense of gratitude for the very widespread and heartfelt engagement with this process to date," she said.
"Faith for many people in Ireland today, and the experience of being part of a worshipping community, are important and much valued parts of their lives.
"As a Church we take great encouragement from the number of people who have taken part in this listening process so far, and we are deeply grateful to all those who gave generously of their time to make this possible."
Bishop Leahy said there was a responsibility "to build on the listening that has taken place to date, with actions that will help the Church to be more pastorally sensitive, to be a place of welcome and belonging for all and to better support people to live out and share their faith".
The day's discussions at Athlone were followed by a prayer walk at the sixth century monastic site of Clonmacnoise.
A total of 160 delegates from the 26 Irish dioceses participated in the Assembly, including members of religious congregations, representatives from other Catholic groups and lay ecclesial associations.
The next stage of the process will see the diocesan input and reflections of the Assembly inform the submission that the Irish Church will make to the Vatican in August in advance of next year's Universal Synod.
That final report will be published, says the steering committee, and developed as a resource to continue the synodal dialogue into the future.
"The Church approaches this synodal process with great humility, conscious that there is much work to be done to build relationships of trust within and beyond the Church," said Bishop Leahy.
"We are called, not only to listen respectfully to one another, but to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church as a whole.
"There was concern for those who do not yet feel included and a desire to think creatively as to how we might reach more people with the invitation to engage with the synodal process and with the local Church community more widely."