Church’s council moved by the spirit of progress

11 July 2022
A Plenary Council banner is seen during the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


After almost four and a half years of preparation, listening and discernment, the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia came to a conclusion with a celebratory Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on Saturday 9 July.

A concluding statement signed by all Members of the Plenary Council from across Australia described the Council as an “expression of the synodality that Pope Francis has identified as a key dimension of the Church’s life in the third millennium”.

Over the weekend, recent media coverage of the Plenary Council has been published, which could distort a balanced assessment of what ended up being a positive outcome for the Church in Australia and a validation of the synodal process.

The Diocese of Parramatta offers sections from an opinion piece published in The Australian newspaper on Monday 11 July 2022 by ABC broadcaster and journalist Geraldine Doogue to deepen reflection and dialogue.

ABC broadcaster and journalist Geraldine Doogue answers a question during a public lecture by British journalist and Vatican correspondent Christopher Lamb, hosted by the Diocese of Parramatta, on Tuesday 5 July 2022. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Geraldine writes:

Death-and-resurrection moments might be the most accurate way to describe the scale of what unfolded at a rare high-level Catholic meeting of almost 300 representatives last week in Sydney.

Some speak of it as a historic turning point. Others, like Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, who’s just stepped down as president of the Australian Bishops Conference and who actually called the Plenary Council meeting in 2015, saw it as “a grand disruption of the Holy Spirit”, a “Paschal moment” if ever there were one.

Further on in the piece, she quotes from Archbishop Coleridge:

“Taking it beyond this week, how is it going to be transformative?” asked Archbishop Coleridge. “Vatican II reached a moment of crisis very early on, which Pope John XXIII intervened to solve. Yes, the ‘wound became a fountain, one of the soldiers pierced his side and immediately there flowed forth blood and water’, the Gospel of John. (The Sydney Plenary) was all very wounding, with plenty of blood on the floor but without becoming complacent, I think the wound is becoming a fountain … to take us into the future. Whether it flows into the life of the church itself depends on implementation.

“But it poses the truth of where we are in the church in a way we had not seen before.”

To read Geraldine’s full opinion piece, please click here. Access to a subscription login will be required.

During the Second Assembly, Geraldine also produced episodes of her Plenary Matters podcast, which heard from Members of the Plenary Council throughout the week.

Listen to her episodes featuring International Vatican journalist Christopher Lamb here as well as her interview with President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Mark Coleridge here.


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