Australian bishops discuss future of Church post-Plenary Council

22 November 2022
A Plenary Council candle is seen during Day Four of the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


The two bishops who guided the Plenary Council have spoken about the Australian landscape following the conclusion of the Plenary Council in July.

On the sidelines of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s November plenary gathering, Plenary Council President Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SBD and Vice-President Bishop Shane Mackinlay spoke with ABC broadcaster and journalist Geraldine Doogue on the latest episode of her Plenary Matters podcast.

Archbishop Costelloe believed that the Plenary Council was a success, and said that the proof of its success will be how what came out of the Council will be implemented at a local level with the people in the pews.

“Most of the things we have decided, in many ways, are things that are already happening in the life of the Church, and now, they’re being presented to us as major priorities for us to continue to focus on,” he said.

“The key thing for us moving forward is the reception of the work of the Plenary Council – helping our people understand what all of these [decrees] mean and helping them to see that our Catholic faith is not just about ourselves and our own local, little communities, but, as Pope Francis says, we are meant to be an outward-going and outward-looking Church.”

Bishop Mackinlay said that one of the outcomes of the Plenary Council that he celebrates is the culture that emerged during and following the Second Assembly.

“You can’t put culture into a motion, you can’t shift culture by just having a vote or even a discernment, but in the end, particularly with the traumatic nature of the Assembly, the way the people stuck with it, stuck with one another, stuck with their faithfulness to the process and to their confidence of the Spirit leading us and were prepared to move through that to a place of real healing and celebration – we’ve ended up shifting culture.

“Certainly people went home exhausted and bruised, but on something of a high. There was a real sense of achievement, that there was something very precious that the week had been about and determined that they would take some of that way of engaging with one another – in the context of discernment and listening to the Spirit – back with them to the various context which they came from, and since then, I’ve heard that that’s happening.

“There’s a shift in expectation of how we live as Church – which is what synodality is about.”

During the November plenary, the acts and decrees from the Plenary Council were formally approved, which will now be sent to the Apostolic See for review.

You can listen to the full episode of the Plenary Matters podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.


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